Eric Metaxas Finds His Moral Whisper About Harassment Claims Against Mike Bloomberg

Oh I see how it is. Mike Bloomberg’s past harassment allegations get some press and Eric Metaxas finds his moral concern.

I don’t think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, he is as much of a louse as Trump, maybe I should support him too.” I think this was “whoa” as in “whoa, that’s bad.” What do you think?

Metaxas and other Trump court evangelicals will be severely blasted if they try to play the morality card on Trump’s opponents during this election. They can’t really do it with a straight face. I suspect Metaxas only wrote a muted “whoa” because he knew he would be ridiculed unmercifully if he went for a stronger condemnation.

Recently CBN’s David Brody (a supporter of Trump) acknowledged that making an issue of Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality was not a winning play for Trump supporters since Trump has no moral high ground. Watch:

Brody just ruled out this out as a plausible strategy given Trump’s questionable behavior. I don’t think Bloomberg is going to prevail, but I can’t see how Republicans can make an issue of it if he does.

Ted Cruz’s False Ukraine Narrative

There are so many lies and half-truths floating around the trial of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. People who do fact checking for a living are working round the clock to try to keep up. I picked this one mainly because I am interested in it and because I see it as a deliberate, clever and sadly effective attempt to deceive masses of people. I have seen this approach used often by David Barton in his historical misadventures. Often, Barton takes a little truth, a little error and puts them together for a false story that seems plausible to the listener who wants to believe it.

In this case, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has accelerated his promotion of the Russian narrative that Joe Biden’s opposition to Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in 2015 was motivated by a desire to bring financial gain to his son Hunter. Watch:

The main point is summarized by Cruz at the end:

If you have a sitting Vice President making public policy decisions to benefit his family to the tune of $1-million a year, that raises a serious question of corruption and a president is not only justified in asking for that to be investigated but has a responsibility to see that that’s investigated.

I suppose Cruz could defend himself by saying that he qualified his statement by saying, “if.” However, the video presents a narrative that has Joe Biden withholding over a billion in funds from Ukraine until the Ukrainian leadership fired Viktor Shokin, their prosecutor at the time. That part is true but incomplete. Cruz goes on to suggest Biden did that in order to protect his son’s company from scrutiny from investigation by that same prosecutor. That is false.

At the end of this post I provide annotated links to articles which describe the bipartisan and widespread support for the ouster of Shokin. Shokin was not investigating corruption in Ukraine which is why the U.S. wanted him removed. Biden acted on directives from the Obama administration. If anything, Shokin’s removal made an investigation of Hunter Biden’s company more likely because it increased the chances that a prosecutor with integrity would be appointed. If Biden wanted to help his son, he would have supported Shokin and wanted him to stay in office because Shokin was leaving Burisma (Hunter Biden’s company) alone.

This is fairly easy to learn by reading reports filed at the time in the international, U.S. and Ukrainian press. The Congressional Research Service also provided a similar perspective on this situation and was not controversial at all until Trump needed a defense of his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Burisma. I have no doubt that Ted Cruz has been briefed on this and is aware that Shokin was not a reformer and that Biden did not act alone or in his son’s interest to get Shokin fired. He knows that U.S. and EU policy at the time favored the removal of Shokin and that Biden was just the person on the scene to carry it out. As Vice President, Biden’s presence in Ukraine signaled how serious the donor nations were, but he wasn’t acting on his own.

I realize I am speaking to readers who know this. Most, if not all, regular readers here know this. I am revisiting this because I want to document this shady use of events to craft a false narrative for myself and my teaching. I also want to provide the links below as a resource for those who want evidence to provide skeptical friends who have been bamboozled by Trump’s defenders.

Annotated timeline of Viktor Shokin’s tenure as Prosecutor General:

February 10, 2015Shokin replaces Yarema as top prosecutor – Viktor Shokin was a deputy under former prosecutor Vitaliy Yarema. Yarema failed to prosecute officials in former President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration and generally showed no results in fighting corruption. Shokin’s nomination was opposed by corruption fighters in Ukraine since he came from the same office as Yarema. The Ukrainian Weekly reported:

Fiery debate preceded the vote in which critics warned he’d perform just as badly as Mr. Yarema, having served at the heart of Ukraine’s corrupt law enforcement system for more than a decade, including under the Yanukovych administration.

Shokin did not have a reputation as a corruption fighter when he entered the job.

July 24, 2015Shokin and Guzir were “burned” under the GPU – After just five months on the job, the Center for Combating Corruption in Ukraine grew impatient with Shokin’s lack of action and burned him and others in effigy. This is a Google translation of the Ukrainian statement underneath the video.

Avtomaydan, together with the Center for Combating Corruption and activists from Kharkiv, Poltava, under the GPU, hold an action for the resignation of sabotage reformers of Prosecutor General Shokin and his deputies Huzyr and Stoliarchuk.

September 24, 2015Remarks by US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Odesa Financial Forum – In his remarks, Pyatt specifically scolded the Prosecutor General’s office for interfering with a UK investigation of Burisma. Shokin’s predecessor had failed to cooperate. Then Shokin failed to hold anyone accountable for the neglect of a thorough investigation of charges against Burisma. If Biden wanted to encourage corruption and take heat from Burisma, he would have left Shokin alone. Instead, Biden carried out U.S. policy and insisted he be relieved of his position.

October 8, 2015Testimony of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Viktor Shokin was still Prosecutor General when Nuland said the following to the Senate committee:

Like Ukraine’s police force, the Prosecutor General’s Office has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off. That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases – including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself;

October 12, 2015Sobolev’s case for firing Shokin steadily gains momentum – Ukrainian legislator Yegor Sobolev’s effort to get Shokin fired was featured in this Kyiv Post article. Biden was just one of many people inside and outside of Ukraine who wanted Shokin replaced. What did Sobolev have to gain from Shokin’s removal from office? According to Sobolev, legislators were fearful of speaking out because Shokin used the power of his office to target his political enemies.

Sobolev has so far collected 114 signatures in parliament for dismissing Shokin, still well short of the 150 signatures needed to put the issue on the agenda.

He said in an interview with the Kyiv Post that not a single signature has been collected since the Sept. 17 arrest of Radical Party lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk on suspicion of bribery. Critics see the arrest as political revenge by Shokin for Mosiychuk’s support for his firing.

“After Ihor’s arrest everyone started thinking ‘what if this happens to me tomorrow’?” Sobolev said. “One of Shokin’s goals is to show to lawmakers what consequences could happen to those who submit signatures for his dismissal.”

October 31, 2015Protesters drive to Poroshenko’s mansion to demand dismissal of Shokin – About 200 protests drove to the Ukraine president’s house to call for Shokin’s removal. Were they working for the Bidens?

February 16, 2015; March 29, 2015 – It seems clear from a review of sources during the term of Shokin that he was not popular with reformers and corruption fighters. The U.S., EU, and Ukrainian politicians and civilians wanted him removed. Joe Biden delivered the message which was consistent with U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Shokin resigned initially on February 16, 2015. He didn’t leave office right away though and had to be voted out by the legislature which occurred on March 29, 2015.

 

Why You Should Not Listen to Dennis Prager Ever Again

I have never been a fan of Dennis Prager or Prager University. Now, I can say that sentiment has risen to a recommendation to avoid it completely. Watch this clip about the relationship between private comments and character. Specifically, Prager makes reference to Donald Trump’s vulgar comments on the Access Hollywood tape.

You can watch the whole fireside chat here.

In this video, he correctly says that humans in private say and think things that are bad. This observation follows from the Christian doctrine of sin. Private evil is also consistent with a psychoanalytic perspective, whether it stem from Freud’s id or Jung’s shadow. However, Prager’s reference to Trump’s Access Hollywood comments as “private” is deeply flawed. As a result his moral lesson is also flawed.

Trump spoke on a television set to another person about what he had done (“moved on her like a bitch”) and what he claimed to do as a matter of course (sexually assault women). His comments were not private and they were not about his private wishes. He described what he had done and claimed to do as a matter of practice.

What Trump disclosed to Billy Bush in that conversation was not normal. For Prager to attempt to excuse this or normalize it is a disgrace. Remember Trump did not say that he worried about these fantasies or that he wished he didn’t have them or that he was fighting them. He wasn’t disclosing troubling thoughts to his therapist in an effort to help himself rise above them. They weren’t even jokes or hyperbole (which would be a less reliable indicator of character). Trump boastfully described something he had done and might do again.

Prager’s general point that private talk “is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character” isn’t consistent with common sense, the Bible, or psychological work. While I agree that humans are flawed, we are not all troubled in the same ways. It is not original with me to cite the words of Jesus on this point:

Social psychological research has demonstrated several ways that we present a front. We manage our appearance and behavior to give socially advantageous impressions. The results of self-report on tests is often questionable because of social desirability bias. Even though we don’t often know ourselves well, we often put on a different persona than we really feel. Most people agree with the idiom: you can’t judge a book by its cover. Prager wants us to believe you can’t judge a book by the book.

Prager’s effort to level the moral playing field to the lowest common denominator is a transparent effort to ease the conscience of Trump supporters. If Prager is going to be consistent then he will need to tape another fire side chat to excuse the private behavior of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Prager was unprepared to speak intelligently about the matter. He didn’t even know the name of the show (he called it “Planet Hollywood”) and he tap danced around the specifics of what Trump said. Prager also revealed something about himself, saying that he engages in stereotypes about gender and ethnicity while he is driving. I can honestly say that I have had lots of road rage, but I have never attributed a person’s bad driving to their ethnicity or their religion. That information is something he probably should have kept private.

Additional point: Other Trump’s defenders want us to judge what they say is Trump’s heart and not his public words or actions. Defending Trump’s apparent ridicule of a disabled reporter, Kellyanne Conway once asked Chris Cuomo:

You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.

So if we can’t judge based on private disclosures and we can’t judge based on his public actions and words, then how may we judge him? I get the strong suspicion that Trump’s followers don’t want anyone to judge him at all.

Image via Wikipedia, taken by Gage Skidmore

Crown Him with Many Crowns – Trump Upon His Throne

This speaks for itself.

Keep in mind that this is a political rally in a church. These evangelicals have political goals which are more important than their religious ones.

For more, see these posts by John Fea and Andy Rowell.

Does Romans 13 Support the Case for Keeping Trump?

In response to Mark Galli’s Christianity Today op-ed calling for President Trump to be removed from office, Peter Leithart at First Things appeals to Romans 13 as one reason to put up with a bad executive. I have heard this in defense of Trump, but I don’t think it is a correct application. First, here is the passage:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It seems obvious that governing authorities involve more than the president. Congress is an authority, the Judicial branch is an authority. There are state and local authorities. Critically, the Constitution via the Supremacy clause is the law of the land. Paul did not specify a form of government. In our form of government, the authority is the Constitution. Rulers are elected by the people and are considered public servants. Citizens and rulers are subject to the Constitution which is the governing authority.

Thus, it is important for Christians to respect Congress and who God has placed in office there. Many Christian Trump supporters right now are myopically focused on the executive branch. However, I believe they have encouraged President Trump to violate Romans 13 by supporting his resistance to subpoenas and parroting his rhetoric about a witch hunt. I think a case can be made that Trump is in violation of Romans 13 since he will not bring himself under the authority of Congress and the Constitution.

Trump supporters might counter by saying he has a right to go to court to seek a favorable interpretation of the law in his resistance to Congressional oversight. While that is true, it should be noted that he has argued that the president has absolute immunity from investigation and indictment while in office. The president could commit a crime in broad daylight and according to the argument he has advanced, he could not be investigated until he leaves office. This is an extreme position and has not prevailed in any court challenge thus far. The Supreme Court will hear related cases soon.

Trump’s legal strategy aside, my main point is that current Christian Trump supporters must find a way to respect all of the authorities. I think Leithart is clearly wrong to say Christians should put up with bad behavior in our Constitutional form of government when Congressional oversight exists.

In Leithart’s article, I read no argument for why Christians must honor the executive branch more than the legislative branch. Trump Christians have shown a consistent bias on this front. The Constitution gives impeachment power to the House. Trump Christians such as Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, and Robert Jeffress blasted the impeachment procedures as biased and unfair. In fact, the House leaders had the right to conduct the business as their preexisting rules dictated. Giving Congress honor and respect as an authority was not at all what these leaders did. Instead, they left their religious callings and became partisan political players.

Now, Senate Republican leaders are threatening to dishonor the Constitution by making the trial a sham. Christians should insist on a trial which brings forward evidence. Christians should publicly call on the president to obey subpoenas and submit the authority over him — the Constitution. Christians should honor the Constitutional order for the role of the Senate. The Senators take an oath to be impartial. Christian Senators who follow Romans 13 should strive to follow that oath. Christian citizens should call on the Senate to follow their oath and honor them for doing so.

In short, governing authorities involve more than the executive branch.  Christians need to support the legitimate work of the legislative branch and insist that the president honor the Constitution. There is no reason to elevate one branch over another in our system since the law of the land isn’t a potentate but the Constitution.

UPDATE: This post at American Creation blog is a nice summary of Calvinist views of Romans 13. Gregg Frazer, Dean of The Master’s University and historian of the founding era wrote to address Calvin’s perspective on political rebellion. In short, without some governmental sanction for resistance (e.g., impeachment), Christians should not rebel. However, impeachment and removal is built in to the Constitution and therefore legitimate. Christians should not appeal to Romans 13 as a reason to oppose impeachment.

About Eric Metaxas’ Tattooed Pilot

In a 12/20 interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN, Eric Metaxas was asked how he can support Trump given Trump’s actions. Watch:

Metaxas wants us to think Trump is just a naughty president with his bad language and womanizing. Here’s the thing; I don’t care if Trump has tattoos. I really don’t care that much that he has been married three times. It is relevant that he paid off women to keep his affairs secret but even that isn’t the main event for me.

Sticking with the pilot analogy, I want to know if the pilot get his license by bribing the person who tests pilots? Did he cheat taking the pilot’s exam? Did he lie to get it or keep it? Has he been accused of any crimes as a pilot? If so and he’s investigated, does he lie about matters related to the charges? Does he hide pertinent documents?  Does prevent witnesses from talking?

Metaxas is infuriatingly dense on this point. He portrays his opponents as legalistic prudes. This is simply dishonest.

Trump right now is keeping his staff from providing Congress with information. He is withholding documents from Congress. He lies to the public and Congress about his “perfect” call to Ukraine’s president. He lies about being exonerated by the Mueller report. If Trump is a tattooed pilot, being tattooed is the least of our concerns. He’s dangerous and needs to be grounded.

Christianity Today Calls for Trump to Be Removed from Office; Fireworks Ensue

Yesterday afternoon, Christianity Today‘s Mark Galli wrote an editorial calling for the removal of Donald Trump from office. Since then, Christianity Today has trended nearly non-stop on Twitter and Trump has rage tweeted several times with attacks on the publication. Trump’s court evangelicals are up in arms and have commented with the aim of minimizing the damage.

Mark Galli placed CT’s position in the context of the magazine’s stance on Bill Clinton when he faced impeachment. CT advocated for impeachment then and Galli and the magazine’s editorial board now believe Trump’s conduct in office, most recently during the Ukraine scandal, is of similar bad character.

Of course, Galli and his board are correct. If the Constitution means anything and the oath taken by our legislators means anything, they must convict Trump. It is refreshing to see it print in a magazine I came to respect as an undergraduate.

Immediately, the objections come. He’s done good things. He is pro-life (unless of course you ask the Kurds, Yemeni children and their families, and Ukrainian soldiers on the Russian front). The Judges. The economy.

My reaction to those objections is one name: Mike Pence.

Convicting Donald Trump does not undo the 2016 election. Mike Pence would become president. While Pence has his own issues, there is little chance he would be investigated for them prior to the 2020 election. The people who are all in for Trump must really dislike Mike Pence. Pence would be the GOP standard bearer in 2020 and continue many of the same policies appreciated by evangelicals.

Let me continue with that thought. Removing Trump from office now does not force a choice for a liberal Democrat. Some commenters have thoughtfully suggested removing Trump leaves us with a liberal Democrat as the only alternative. However, acting on principle right now does not present that choice. There is a clear choice right now: take a stand for the rule of law, separation of powers, and an executive who is not above the law or allow the executive branch to function without accountability to anyone, not just now but in future administrations.

To make it personal, the choice right now is between Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

The CT editorial calls Congress to do the right thing. It calls Christians to do the right thing and let God handle the rest. There was a time when walking by faith and not by sight was considered a good thing. Now according to the Christian leaders among us, we need a king. We need a man who decrees this:

According to Trump, CT wants someone to “guard their religion.” He has it all wrong. If Christianity needs a president or any political power to guard our religion, then it is no religion at all. Donald Trump wants us to believe that James Madison was wrong when he said “a dependence on the powers of this world” was “a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself.” Today’s evangelicals appear to believe Trump is necessary for our religion to survive. As indicated by his tweet above, Trump sure believes it.

To me, Galli’s editorial is important because he goes beyond a political opinion and lays out what is at stake by partnering with deception and immorality to attain policy goals.

 Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?

Personally, I think the horse is out of the barn for many people outside of the evangelical world. However, it is never too late to do the right thing. Here’s hoping Mr. Galli’s editorial helps that happen a little more each day.

Kay Warren Shows the Boys How to Do It

This is what I have been waiting for.

I don’t know Mrs. Warren politics. She may plan to vote for Trump, but she knows the actions of a demagogue when she see them. More than that, she called Trump out on his behavior. Imagine that, a high profile evangelical leader calling out POTUS in a sharp and direct manner. No weasel words about both sides, blah, blah; she laid it out.

Beth Moore commented on her tweet. I did not see any other high profile evangelicals. Now I realize that not everybody has to comment on every issue on Twitter and I also know that Trump has an outrage an hour so it is easy to miss some.

I will say that Warren modeled what evangelicals could do if they just would. Even those who end up voting for Trump should call out his bad behavior and risk a disapproving tweet from him. Evangelicals are most of his support right now. If they rose up and said enough, they would have some clout. Instead, most of the leaders (Jeffress, Metaxas, Graham, Morris, etc.) seem to resonate with Trump as demagogue.

If you have a Twitter account, consider showing Kay a little love today…

Trump Foundation Pays Damages and Dissolves

In any other administration, this would be huge news and perhaps rise to the level of impeachment talk. In early November, the state of New York filed a settlement with the Trump Foundation which required the organization to close and give nearly $4-million to charities. That sum includes a $2-million fine and the remaining $1.8 million in Foundation assets.

Read the Trump Foundation Settlement Here

I have been reporting on churches, Christian nonprofits and other charities for several years and have seen some corrupt dealings. This one ranks high on the corruption scale. Trump used this foundation as a kind of slush fund to pay off debts, support his campaign, and in some cases make other political donations. Even though foundations are supposed to remain separated from the for profit business side of an enterprise, Trump regularly mixed the two worlds to advance Trump’s interests.

The New York Attorney General publicly announced an investigation into the Foundation on September 13, 2016. If you read through the settlement, you will notice that the efforts to repay funds taken from the Foundation and used for various non-charitable purposes came after that date in late 2016 or in 2017. After the NY AG started investigated, the Foundation then started to pay back taxes on donations and funds used for non-charitable causes.

One of the key issues in the case was a fund raising event for veterans that occurred in Iowa during the 2016 campaign as a joint effort of the Trump Foundation and the Trump campaign. Trump skipped a debate there and hosted a rally which led to funds being raised and given to veterans’ groups in campaign related events, thus mixing campaign work with the Foundation. In making her ruling about damages, Judge Saliann Scarpulla referred to this event along with Trump’s general negligence which is described in more detail below.  About Trump’s management of the Foundation, Judge Scarpulla wrote:

As a director of the Foundation, Mr. Trump owed fiduciary duties to the Foundation, pursuant to N-PCL § 717; he was a trustee of the Foundation’s charitable assets and was thereby responsible for the proper administration of these assets, pursuant to EPTL § 8-1.4. A review of the record, including the factual admissions in the Final Stipulation, establishes that Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation and that waste occurred to the Foundation.

Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign. The Attorney General has argued that I should award damages for waste of the entire $2,823,000 that was donated directly to the Foundation at the Fundraiser. In opposition, Mr. Trump notes that the Foundation ultimately disbursed all of the Funds to charitable organizations and that he has sought to resolve consensually this proceeding.

As stated above, I find that the $2,823,000 raised at the Fundraiser was used for Mr. Trump’s political campaign and disbursed by Mr. Trump’s campaign staff, rather than by the Foundation, in violation of N-PCL §§ 717 and 720 and EPTL §§ 8-1.4 and 8-1.8. However, taking into consideration that the Funds did ultimately reach their intended destinations, i.e., charitable organizations supporting veterans, I award damages on the breach of fiduciary duty/waste claim against Mr. Trump in the amount of $2,000,000, without interest, rather than the entire $2,823,000 sought by the Attorney General.

The judge found violations of law but didn’t fine him as much as the AG wanted her to. The judge did issue the fine in response to the factual claim that Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation. Not only did he do so in violation of laws as cited by Judge Scarpulla in the section above, there were other instances cited. I outline those below.

The settlement outlines other offenses that both sides agreed occurred.

In one 2007 case, Trump used Foundation money to pay a lawsuit settlement to a charity. It wasn’t until after the NY AG started the investigation that Trump repaid the Foundation with interest on March 10, 2017. A Trump supporter might claim that Trump always intended to repay the Foundation. My answer is that it was illegal at the start (which Trump denied) and secondly, I am skeptical that Trump would ever have paid it back without the pressure of the AG investigation.

In 2012, the Trump Foundation gave $157,000 to the Martin Greenberg Foundation to satisfy a debt owed by one of Trump’s golf courses. Again, this is illegal. Trump didn’t reimburse the Foundation until 2017 after the AG investigation was publicly announced.

In 2013, Trump caused $25,000 to be donated from the Foundation to a PAC supporting Pam Bondi’s campaign for attorney general. While contribution itself may have been legal, the Foundation did not pay the required tax on the contribution until 2016.

Also in 2013, the Foundation contributed funds to the DC Preservation League which entitled it to an ad in the organization’s fund raising program. However, instead of advertising the Foundation, Trump placed an ad for his DC Trump International Hotel, thereby mixing the profit and nonprofit. Again, it was only after the investigation started that any remedy was undertaken.

Perhaps the most emblematic incident is the purchase of a portrait of Trump by Trump with Foundation funds. In 2014, at a children’s charity event, Trump bought his own painting for $10,000 with Foundation funds and after storing it for awhile, displayed in one of his hotels. In November 2016 — after the investigation started — the painting was removed from the hotel and sent to the Foundation.

Finally, in 2015, Trump’s real estate management company Silver Springs pledged $32,000 to a charitable organization in New York. The charitable group’s work stood to benefit one of his residences. Rather than pay that pledge himself, he had the Foundation cover it.

The settlement also requires Trump to pay the $11,525 he used from Foundation money to pay for sports memorabilia at a Susan G. Komen benefit auction.

This investigation was triggered by reporting from various groups, including Scripps going back to 2016. Given the Scripps report, Trump was fortunate to get by with just this settlement.

Read the settlement again and then read Trump’s statement about the settlement:

Trump v. Facts

Trump’s statement bears little resemblance to the truth. He says “every penny of the $19 million raised by the Trump Foundation went to hundreds of great charitable causes.”

This isn’t true. Pam Bondi’s run for AG isn’t a charitable cause. Using Foundation funds to get an ad for your for-profit business isn’t a charitable cause. Moreover, buying sports collectibles with Foundation money doesn’t seem like an honest description of the activity. Yes, a charity got some money, but they had to give you something in exchange. Giving Foundation funds to a nonprofit that benefits your real estate value doesn’t seem like a particularly generous use of those funds. That’s the definition of self-dealing.

Trump claimed in his Twitter statement that all the AG found was “incredibly effective philanthropy and some small technical violations, such as not keeping board minutes.”

This isn’t true. The settlement makes clear that the Foundation board of directors didn’t meet at all from 1999 through November, 2018. The Board of Directors had no oversight of any kind through that period. The settlement describes just the opposite of “incredibly effective philanthropy.” There were numerous violations and instances of self-dealing which resulted in the various breaches of fiduciary responsibility noted in the settlement.

It is true that the dissolution is presented in the settlement as a mutual agreement, but there is an important section which has not been discussed much in the news accounts about this case. The judge specifies what Trump and any future charity must do if Trump is ever on the board of a charity. Trump cannot serve on a board where a majority of members are family or have business relationships with him. The charitable organization must not engage in related party transactions with any entity owned or controlled by him. If Trump forms a new charitable organizations, he must ensure that annual reports are filed with the state for a period of 5 years. The details of what must be in the reports are spelled out. In short, Trump must comply with the law.

Furthermore, recall Judge Scarpulla’s assessment of Trump’s actions: “A review of the record, including the factual admissions in the Final
Stipulation, establishes that Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation and that waste occurred to the Foundation.”

Let me repeat, the judge and AG did not find “incredibly effective philanthropy.”

Finally, Trump’s spin about the $2 million donation to 8 charities is laughable. The court ordered him to pay that sum in damages (“I award damages on the breach of fiduciary duty/waste claim against Mr. Trump in the amount of $2,000,000”.

So even after being caught in numerous violations of law and stipulating to them in public documents, Trump cannot bring himself to tell the truth about it. As noted, in a normal time, this might be article of impeachment number three.

 

Petition to Remove the White House Press Credentials of Rick Wiles

You might recall the story of antisemitic right wing talking head Rick Wiles who blamed impeachment on a “Jew coup.” His video accusing Jews of plotting the murder of millions of Christians was removed from YouTube but has drawn no condemnation from Republicans who have appeared on his programs in the past. Apparently he has easy access to the White House via press credentials.

Yesterday, I become aware of a White House petition launched by attorney Marc Stanley which asks the Trump administration to restrict Wiles’ access to the White House. I signed it and I ask that you click the link and sign it too.  The petition reads:

On a November 22, 2019 broadcast recording, TruNews founder and host Rick Wiles opined that the House impeachment inquiry is part of a “Jew Coup” to overthrow President Trump and install a Jewish “Cabal” to control the country.

On December 4, 2019, Wiles doubled down, saying, “Jewish socialist Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee escalated the Jew Coup.”

Rick Wiles has a long history of spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as radical Islamophobic and anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

In the past, Rick Wiles has applied for and been granted White House press credentials. His vile racism, bigotry, and appeals to hate and violence have no place in the White House and he should be banned for life.

Add your name to this petition and take a stand against Wiles, anti-Semitism and bigotry.

In any normal administration, this fact and the lack of response to it would have consumed at least one news cycle. However, in the Trump administration, it is just another hour of another day. However, this should not go without response, especially at a time when Trump is cynically courting Jewish voters.  I hope you will sign on.