The House Oversight Committee on Thursday released a detailed examination of Donald Trump’s web of financial assets and alleged conflicts of interest – including ‘hush payments’ to porn star Stormy Daniels – hours before the president was to make the case for his reelection to the nation at the Republican convention.
The detailed 58-page look at the president’s financial structure and business relationships was a legalistic counterpoint to the more public counter-programming being delivered by Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris Thursday afternoon.
‘President Trump’s complex and opaque financial holdings, consisting of hundreds of interconnected business entities, is unprecedented for a president in the modern era,’ the panel wrote. ‘So is his refusal to divest those assets, a stark departure from longstanding norms established by past presidents.’
Among the complex financial arrangements committee investigators spell out in their legal memo are the ‘hush’ payments that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels – an issue that went unmentioned at Joe Biden’s convention.
The committee says the White House has failed to produce any documents in response to their requests for information on the hush payments.
The memo cites 2019 testimony about the payments to Daniels as well as third party payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleges she had an affair with Trump.
‘Mr. Cohen testified that he arranged hush money payments to Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal at the direction of President Trump. To corroborate his testimony, Mr. Cohen provided the Committee copies of numerous reimbursement checks signed after the President took office by President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and [Trump Organization executive] Allen Weisselberg, including checks issued prior to the President’s 2017 financial disclosure omitting the liability,’ the committee wrote.
It also points to Cohen’s testimony that Trump routinely altered estimated assets and liabilities – a charge that New York state prosecutors are investigating.
‘These financial statements revealed that the President’s personal and business financial affairs were more complex and opaque than previously understood, leading to expanded concerns that the closely-held nature of the President’s businesses and the interrelated nature of his personal and business assets and liabilities were not being adequately reported under existing law,’ according to the committee.
The committee compared information compiled by the Mazars accounting firm with Trump’s 2015 financial disclosure. It ‘identified numerous apparent discrepancies between the President’s assets and liabilities on the Mazars documents and his self-reporting to federal ethics officials.’
Mazars is the accounting firm that received subpoenas from House committees as well as prosecutors that brought cases to the Supreme Court, although it remains tangled in appeals and process in lower courts.
The justices dealt a stunning blow to Trump by ruling that he cannot claim immunity from all investigation to stop his bank and his accountants from handing over the tax returns going back to 2011.
The court ruled 7-2 that Trump is not immune as president from subpoenas, in an opinion that tested both the power of local prosecutors and Congress to obtain information. Trump called the Supreme court ruling against him a ‘witch hunt.’
In making the case for getting Trump’s tax returns, the committee notes attacks on Cohen by Trump allies as bolstering the need to get information on paper.
‘In an op-ed published the day before the hearing, then-Ranking Member Jim Jordan and then-Representative Mark Meadows called Michael Cohen a ‘liar’ and wrote: ‘Giving Cohen a congressional platform is … flatout offensive to anyone who seeks the truth,’ the panel notes.
To make the case for getting the returns, the panel claims it is pursing a variety of ‘remedial legislation,’ and cites 18 ethics bills that have been filed. It also says it wants to tighten financial disclosures and pursue legislation to prevent a president from profiting from his or her office.
Trump’s lawyers have described the legislative push a front for a plan to acquire politically damaging information.
The committee then runs through a litany of reports on ways in which Trump might be benefit from foreigners or foreign entities, including through a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. leased from the federal government.
Trump attended a fundraiser there on Thursday, and the hotel was a hub of activity from Trump family members and cabinet officials for fundraisers Wednesday night that included a bourbon tasting with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The committee takes its look all the way forward to Trump’s 2019 financial disclosure, which he only filed recently after getting extensions.
‘Despite the law’s requirement that he report gifts totaling more than $390 from a single source, President Trump only belatedly acknowledged his receipt of free legal services from Rudy Giuliani over a two-year span in a footnote,’ it writes of the former New York mayor who advised and defended Trump during impeachment.
The footnote said: ‘Rudy Giuliani provided such pro bono publico counsel in 2018 and 2019. In any event, Mr. Giuliani is not able to estimate the value of that pro bono publico counsel; therefore, the value is unascertainable.’
But Trump did not similarly amend his 2018 form.
‘Mr. Giuliani has represented foreign interests, including those with pending matters before the U.S. government, at the same time as he provided free legal services to the President, raising serious questions about foreign interference and undue influence on the President and self-dealing by Mr. Giuliani,’ according to the committee.
It also referenced a range of public reporting on Trump’s businesses while in office, including the Secret Service renting golf carts in Bedminster, New Jersey for $179,000, and ‘unexplained’ increases in Trump’s net worth.
In a nine-month period between 2012 and 2013, Trump’s net worth jumped by $4.2 billion.
In a 2012 report by Mazars, Trump claimed the earlier statement did not ‘reflect the ‘value of Donald J. Trump’s worldwide reputation’ and that the ‘goodwill attached to the Trump name has proven financial value in that potential users of real property around the world have demonstrated willingness to pay a significant premium for ownership or use of a Trump related residence.’
It also points out omissions and misstatements in Trump’s disclosures. A 2012 claim said he owned 2,000 acres at his Virginia vineyard, but land records put the acreage at 1,200 and a website says it owns 1,300.
The committee says it needs Trump’s returns to continue its investigation into the former Old Post Office build that the Trump Organization leased for its luxury hotel in D.C.
The General Services Agency relied on three-years of Trump financials in awarding the bid.
‘Based on the Committee’s preliminary review, President Trump’s financial statements created by Mazars and provided by Mr. Cohen do not appear to have been either audited or certified, which raises questions about what information President Trump submitted to GSA to win the lease award,’ according to the document.