Maybe The Trump Organization Did Some Light Bribery For Lower Taxes, But It Was So Long Ago
For the sake of historical interest, the investigative journalists at ProPublica report that back in the 1980s and '90s, the Trump Organization was one of several big New York real estate interests that paid bribes to corrupt tax assessors to reduce the tax valuations on properties in the Big Rotten Apple, according to five of the criminals themselves. Two of the convicted former city tax assessors said they personally took money from middlemen on the behalf of the Trump Org, and three others "said they had indirect knowledge of the payments." They were all interviewed as part of a story for the radio series "Trump Inc." produced by ProPublica and WNYC.
Then again, they're all convicted crooks. Who you gonna believe, them, or the president of the United States, who never done nothing wrong ever in his life? Or at least has always had friends to make sure he never suffered any consequences.
Here, have a listen!
The tax assessment scandal was quite the big deal in New York at the time, though a bit overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks.
The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.
And talk about lucky duckies! Not a single real estate developer or building owner was ever charged, in part because the (alleged) crook at the heart of the scheme died of a stroke, literally the night before he was supposed to talk to the prosecutors. Depositions can be very stressful. A list of some of the properties that got lower valuations in the scheme didn't include any Trump properties, either.
The ProPublica story is careful to cite the Trump Organization's complete denial of any wrongdoing, and notes, "No evidence has emerged that Donald Trump personally knew of or participated in the alleged bribery." It's just one of those they-said/we-deny things.
It's a very good, very Trumpy denial, too!
"To be clear, at no time did the Trump Organization or any of its employees or principals ever pay anyone for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a lower tax valuation," Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's chief legal officer, wrote in a statement. "This was corroborated by multiple investigations which found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the company or any of its principals. ... If anything, the Trump Organization was a victim of the scandal."
ProPublica, which is staffed by a bunch of snoopy snoops, asked Garten to "provide evidence or name the agencies that allegedly cleared the company," but he explained he simply meant "the different investigations conducted by the state and federal authorities at the time." Trump and the company were never charged, which means they were 100 percent exonerated, just like with the Mueller Report.
One of the former assessors, Frank Valvo, who went to prison for a year and a half for his part in the scheme, said all the grifty assessors were really excited when they learned they'd gotten some celebrity skin in their game.
The excitement was palpable in the office, Valvo recalled, as one of the assessors broached the news. "He says, 'We got Trump!'" Valvo recalled. "Wow. Holy Smokes."
Valvo didn't actually take bribes from the Trump Organization, but the two former city employees who say they did
told ProPublica and WNYC that they accepted money from middlemen representing the Trump Organization to lower assessments on 40 Wall St. after Trump took over the skyscraper in 1995.
They said they received bribes from middlemen for a bunch of property owners, including the Trump Organization. The bag men would hand over envelopes full of cash, and then the property owners got far lower tax assessments than they normally would have.
One such middleman, they said, was a tax consultant, Thomas McArdle, whose name later surfaced in connection with the bribery scheme.
One of the two assessors recalled receiving a list of about 20 properties from McArdle; 40 Wall St. was on it, he said.
Another said that at one meeting, he looked in the envelope and asked for more money. The middleman responded by telling him that Donald Trump thought the employee should be making the assessment changes for free.
That sure sounds like the Donald Trump we've come to detest, all right!
Mr. Valvo said, "I'm guilty of what I did. I'm not going to hide that." He told ProPrublica and WNYC he wanted to go on the record "because he's now 88, and he 'wants the truth to come out' about the property owners." You know, like Michael Cohen, a convicted rat who wants to ruin a great man's reputation just because he has inside information.
Beyond Valvo and the two people who said they took Trump Org bribes,
a fourth former assessor said he could confirm that Trump Organization property was involved but declined to provide additional details. A fifth former assessor said he remembers Trump Organization properties being talked about in the office as among those whose assessments were lowered in exchange for bribes.
Oh, well that's hearsay, so you can't even put it in a news story. Don't these "reporters" know how all information about Donald Trump must be accompanied by a named source? You can't say anything is a fact unless it was under sworn testimony, and maybe not even then.
In the case of two Trump properties that allegedly got favorable deals because of bribery — 40 Wall Street and the Plaza Hotel — ProPublica scrupulously notes that their valuations did drop noticeably at the time of the alleged scheme, but also points out that those fluctuations in value might be explained by the local real estate market, which is the Trump Org's explanation.
The Plaza's valuation dropped by about 40% over two years, for example, but that also coincided with the hotel's 1992 entry into bankruptcy. The assessments began rising again on its 1994 tax bill, when the hotel was back on the market. It sold in 1995.
Unfortunately, one schemer with a lot of the answers never got to tell the feds about everything he knew. 85-year-old former assessor Albert Schussler had to go and die before he could spill the beans.
"You'd love to follow the rainbow to the very end and get every person along the way who has been committing crimes, but unfortunately it's not possible," said Sharon McCarthy, the assistant U.S. attorney who led the prosecution of the case, in an interview with academic researchers in 2014. "The person who dealt directly with the property owners is Albert Schussler, and he passed away, so we lost the ability to go after anyone else."
You know what we bet? We bet he got too close to the truth about Bill and Hillary Clinton somehow.
Say, you know what ProPublica doesn't mention? Trump's reported eagerness to get rid of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, so American businesses can bribe foreign officials for great deals. Not him, because he's a straight shooter, just business folks in general.
Also too, in characteristic Trump fashion, Trump and his companies sued the city after the tax assessment scandal, claiming that Trump properties got unfairly high assessments because Trump wouldn't play ball with the crooks, so could he please have some back taxes please? There were settlements, and
Trump's company received a tax break worth more than $100 million. The 13-page agreement did not mention or address the merits of Trump's claims that the Trump World Tower suffered because of Trump's asserted unwillingness to pay any bribes.
Gosh, people sure are mean to Donald Trump. And now you have these mean reporters rehashing old claims from a bunch of crooks who said they did crimes for Donald Trump. Poor man is surrounded by assholes, which is why he's so careful to always get the best people.
Whom he may or may not have ever heard of, when asked at a later date.
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