Trump needed (and got) a lot of help to be so corrupt


In her press conference announcing a lawsuit against former President Trump, the Trump Organization, company executives and three of Trump’s four adult children, New York Attorney General Letitia James poetically characterized the massive fraud allegations as “a story of two legal systems, one for ordinary working people and one for the elite, rich and powerful.” At first glance, this may seem like the standard statement of a crusading prosecutor seeking to take down a supposedly corrupt businessman, but it resonates deeper than that and poses the disturbing question of who really helped Trump commit such alleged fraud?

The lawsuit, which takes 220 pages to detail the entire alleged scheme, describes the fraud as “staggering,” overvaluing assets by billions of dollars. For example, Trump’s current residence at Mar-a-Lago is said to be worth $739 million, but James’ lawsuit claims the true value was only $75 million. A group of rent-stabilized apartments was valued at nearly $50 million dollars, although an outside expert believed they were worth only $750,000. Even the easily measurable square footage of Trump’s penthouse apartment would be 30,000 square feet, when it was supposedly only 10,000 square feet.

This massive amount of financial details supporting the lawsuit was obtained through years of hard legal battles with Trump’s attorneys in New York State and the appellate courts, including Trump who was scorned for failing to hand over documents and the real estate firm to Cushman. Wakefield held in contempt before handing over documents.

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Cushman Wakefield appraised several Trump properties at issue in the lawsuit, including 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, NY, and Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles.

The investigation also resulted in Trump’s accounting firm Mazurs rejecting their work for him and instructing the company to notify anyone who may have relied on their work of the rejection.

This isn’t the first time the New York Attorney General’s office has sued a Trump company for what, in hindsight, appear to be blatant violations. In 2018, Trump’s nonprofit foundation was sued for violating nonprofit laws by being used for such purposes as settling legal claims, paying for a $10,000 portrait of Trump, and becoming a part of Trump’s campaign. Trump. As a result of the misuse of the millions of dollars, the nonprofit was dissolved and Trump and his children, Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric, all temporarily barred from serving a New York state nonprofit.

So how does such a pattern manage to escape undetected on such a large scale for so many years? Part of the answer was buried in a reply from New York AG James during her press conference. When asked how such behavior could continue for decades and how the major institutions Trump dealt with could be misled, James referred to the accounting firm Mazurs, Cushman Wakefield — the real estate company — and Deutsche Bank, one of Trump’s favorite loan sources. On Mazurs, James stated that Mazurs has said they have not audited the financial statements prepared for Trump. Cushman Wakefield’s actions were part of an ongoing investigation into Cushman Wakefield, according to James. And Deutsche Bank, according to James, had fully cooperated.

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But such answers from James do not fully explain how potential fraud occurs on this scale and none of us should be content with them, even if they are factually true. Institutions like Mazurs, Cushman Wakefield and Deutsche Bank are immensely powerful and sophisticated entities that have not amassed their wealth by being naive.

One of Trump’s likely legal defenses against the lawsuit will be that such institutions would not have relied solely on financial statements — meaning they were too smart to be scammed and therefore he must not have engaged in fraud.

The three companies referenced are representative of the many companies Trump has dealt with over the years, all of which may turn a blind eye to suspicious valuations and practices as long as they made money off Trump. In that sense, and as Trump’s legal team is likely to argue, they were hardly victims. They were all the little piggy that went to the market.

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No, the real victims here are the ordinary working people – us – who have to play by different rules – the ones James said shouldn’t lie to banks. Trump’s and Trump’s own lawsuit should also make us delve deeper into the idea that “the world is divided into two groups: the common people and a privileged elite” — itself a “populist confection” and one that Trump uses extremely well. .

His appeal to so much plays on what has been described as a “cult of democratic aspiration,” meaning he wears both the looks of the common man and that of the privileged elite — a costume that allows him to be a stand-in for all those who desire what they do not have.

As a young politician, Sarah Palin — no stranger to populist rhetoric — once recalled going to Ivana Trump “because we’re so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamor and culture.” A little bit of Palin’s vision of Alaska is in all of us, and that envy and desire is what we must guard against in ourselves to see carefully the mirages created by great wealth and privilege.