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Trump Can Pull Money From His Businesses Whenever He Wants—Without Ever Telling Us

Mother Jones

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This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

When President Donald Trump placed his businesses in a trust upon entering the White House, he put his sons in charge and claimed to distance himself from his sprawling empire. “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh you did a good job,'” Trump said at a January 11 press conference. Trump’s lawyer explained that the president “was completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

The setup has long been slammed as insufficient, far short of the full divestment that many ethics experts say is needed to avoid conflicts of interest. A small phrase buried deep in a set of recently released letters between the Trump Organization and the government shows just how little separation there actually is.

Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.

The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on February 10, stipulate that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets, such as the businesses themselves.

Here is the new clause, from page 161:

“It’s incredibly broad language,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a family estate and trust attorney outside Washington, DC, who reviewed the documents for ProPublica.

There is nothing requiring Trump to disclose when he takes profits from the trust, which could go directly into his bank or brokerage account. That’s because both the trust and Trump Organization are privately held. The only people who know the details of the Trump trust’s finances are its trustees, Trump’s son Donald Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s chief financial officer. Trump’s other son, Eric, has been listed as an adviser to the trust, according to this revised document.

The Trump Organization did not answer detailed questions about the trust. In a statement to ProPublica about the companies’ corporate structures, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, Amanda Miller, said, “President Trump believed it was important to create multiple layers of approval for major actions and key business decision” (Sic. Read the full statement.)

There is a chance Trump will list his profits in his next federal financial disclosure, in May 2018, but the form doesn’t require it. The surest way to see what profits Trump is taking would be the release of his tax returns—which hasn’t happened. Income has to be reported to the IRS, whether it comes from a trust or someplace else.

“For tax purposes, it’s as if the trust doesn’t exist at all,” said Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “It’s just an entity on paper, nothing more.”

It’s not clear why Trump added the language to the trust document. His original trust document, which ProPublica obtained in January, designated Trump as the “exclusive beneficiary.” It did not include any restrictions on when Trump could get the money.

Taking profits regularly could benefit Trump in a variety of ways. It would give the president yet more details on the ongoing finances of his businesses. Trump’s son Eric recently told Forbes he plans to update his father on the company regularly, though the revised trust document states that the trustees “shall not provide any report to Donald J. Trump on the holdings and sources of income of the Trust.”

Trump could also simply find the income helpful, even as president. The trust document shows that Trump has “broad rights to the trust principal and income to support him as necessary,” Tansill said.

The General Services Administration released the document last week when it approved the Trump Organization’s plan to address conflicts involving the Trump International Hotel in DC. (The GSA, which handles procurement for the government, owns the land and Trump has a 60-year lease for the building.) In response to criticism about Trump being, in effect, both tenant and landlord, he agreed to not take any profits from the hotel while in office.

Profits will go into a separate company account, which can only be used for hotel upkeep, improvements or debt payments. Watchdog groups have derided that deal as insufficient, noting that pouring profits back into the hotel will make it more valuable in the long term.

With Trump’s hundreds of other businesses, including golf courses, hotels and branding deals, profits from each go to a holding company and eventually into Trump’s trust. Other corporate documents we obtained, reflecting changes made after Trump’s January 20 inauguration, show how money flows from a golf club outside Philadelphia to the president’s trust.

There soon could be many more Trump family businesses.

The Trump Organization has recently touted plans to open hotels across the country, including a second one in Washington, DC. “It’s full steam ahead,” Trump Hotel CEO Eric Danziger said recently. “It’s in the Trump boys’ DNA.”

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Trump Can Pull Money From His Businesses Whenever He Wants—Without Ever Telling Us

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Wild-Eyed Folk by Jeff Buckley’s Father

Mother Jones

Tim Buckley
Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974
Omnivore

Lady, Give Me Your Key
Light in the Attic

Courtesy of Omnivore

Probably best known today as the father of Jeff Buckley, Tim Buckley was, like his son, an electrifying figure, a hyper-romantic, wild-eyed folkie who seemed to inhabit each moment with burning intensity. He was revered for albums like Goodbye and Hello and Happy Sad, and decidedly not a singles artist. Still, Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974 is an intriguing look at Buckley from an unexpected perspective, portraying him as a more versatile auteur than conventional wisdom suggests. These 21 tracks, most previously released, range from baroque chamber pop (the title song) and jazzy meditations (“Happy Time”), to bluesy rockers (“Wanda Lu”) and R&B (“Stone in Love”). None of them seem like strong contenders for Top 40 radio, however.

The one newly unearthed song on Wings, “Lady, Give Me Your Key,” also furnishes the title for a fascinating collection of previously unissued 1967 solo acoustic demos. Six of the 13 were redone for Goodbye and Hello, but most of the others are essentially the only recordings of those songs, making this an essential listen for Buckleyphiles. The sound quality isn’t perfect, drawing on sometimes-scratchy acetates, but in a way that only enhances the aura of magical discovery. Anybody in love with Jeff Buckley’s Grace and his definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but unaware of his parentage, is advised to find out who supplied the DNA that made him so special. Either of these compelling sets is a good starting point.

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Wild-Eyed Folk by Jeff Buckley’s Father

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Exclusive: Central Park Five Members Blast Trump for Insisting They’re Guilty

Mother Jones

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After Donald Trump reaffirmed his long-held belief this week that the men known as the Central Park Five were guilty in an infamous, decades-old rape case, two members of the since-exonerated group blasted Trump in interviews with Mother Jones, calling him a “stunt artist” and saying “he’s gotten worse” since his involvement in their 1990 conviction.

“You have a person who’s supposed to be a very intelligent business man, and what I’m sure he would do if he was trying to purchase a property is do his due diligence,” Yusef Salaam told me Friday, noting that Trump continued to ignore the facts of the Central Park Five case. “For somebody to still stand on the side of injustice like Donald Trump is, that becomes a very scary place to be.”

In a statement to CNN this week, Trump said he still believed the Central Park Five were guilty. “They admitted they were guilty,” he told CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that the case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were convicted of brutally attacking a young white jogger in New York City’s Central Park. The crime, which came at the height of the crack epidemic and skyrocketing crime rates, enflamed racial tension in the city. About two weeks after the incident, Trump published a full-page ad in four major New York newspapers calling for the teens to be brought to justice—and suggesting that they should face the death penalty. But in 2002, all five men—who spent between 6 and 13 years in prison—were exonerated based on DNA evidence and a confession from the actual perpetrator, whose DNA was shown to match evidence at the scene.

Mother Jones talked to two members of the Central Park Five—Salaam and Korey Wise—about Trump’s role in their case, their thoughts on his presidential candidacy, and his latest comments about their case. Not surprisingly, neither is happy to see one of their main antagonists on the national stage day in and day out. Nor is a third member of the group, Raymond Santana, who skewered Trump on Twitter:

Salaam, who was 15 when he was jailed for the assault, said he believes Trump played a crucial role in the media campaign against him.

“Trump was one of the fire starters—really the main fire starter—because his name held a lot more weight,” he said. His ad facilitated “the conviction that was going to happen in the public arena prior to us even getting into the courthouse.”

Wise told me he only learned about Trump’s ad after watching a documentary on his case several years ago. After seeing it, he understood why the case had become so incredibly charged. “I said, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!'” Wise said. “This is where a great deal of the energy that was directed at me in terms of physical threats” came from.

“The ad was talking about and goes specifically into fears that the public was having at that particular time,” Salaam told me. “He’s talking about how ‘we’ve had to give up our leisurely stroll in the playground, and we can’t ride our bikes, or we can’t walk around in the streets because now we’re hostages, ruled by the laws of the streets.'” Trump has revisited those themes in his presidential campaign, often citing gun violence in cities like Chicago as indicative of a breakdown in “law and order,” which he insists he can restore.

Salaam also suggested that Trump was a hypocrite for attacking Hillary Clinton over her “superpredator” remarks in the first presidential debate. “She well within her right could have said, ‘Well you took out a full-page ad calling for the execution—the lynching, the death—of young black and Latino men—and you have never apologized.'”

More than 25 years later, Trump hasn’t changed, Salaam said. “As a matter of fact, he’s gotten worse,” he said. “He believes in everything he’s put out there—the racial vision he’s created.”

For his part, Wise said he doesn’t think about what a Trump presidency would mean because he doesn’t take him seriously: “He’s a stunt artist…He follows publicity.”

But Salaam had a bleaker assessment of what the country would look like with Trump as commander in chief: “If he becomes president, what is that going to mean for the people who are losing their lives in the street? This ‘law and order’ is going to be a very, very scary thing for us as a people.”

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Exclusive: Central Park Five Members Blast Trump for Insisting They’re Guilty

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Obama Just Signed a Bill of Rights for Sexual-Assault Survivors

Mother Jones

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President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that guarantees specific rights for people who have been victimized by a sexual assault.

The measure focuses on collecting and preserving rape kits, the forensic evidence collected in a medical examination after a suspected sexual assault. Police enter the DNA collected from rape kits into state and national databases, sometimes identifying and solving other crimes in addition to the initial rape case. Rape kits—more than 100,000 of them, as of 2014—have often languished for years in police warehouses and crime labs, going untested due to a lack of funds and, some argue, contempt for victims. The new law is the first at the federal level to address these problems, protecting survivors’ access to the initial forensic medical examination and instituting measures to ensure evidence of rape is appropriately preserved and tested.

Survivors can no longer be charged fees or prevented from getting a rape kit examination, even if they have not yet decided to file a police report. Once the medical examination is completed, the kits must be preserved, at no cost to the survivor, until the applicable statute of limitations runs out. Survivors will now be able to request that authorities notify them before destroying their rape kits, and they have the right to request that the evidence be preserved. Once the kit is tested, they’ll also have the right to be notified of important results —including a DNA profile match and toxicology report.

Survivors must also be informed of these rights, regardless of whether they decide to pursue legal action against an assailant. The law also creates a task force to examine how well the new regulations work.

The act was spearheaded by Rise, a nonprofit led by Amanda Nguyen, who became an advocate after her rape almost three years ago when she learned that her rape kit would be destroyed by the state of Massachusetts within six months unless she filed repeated “extension requests.”

“The system essentially makes me live my life by date of rape,” Nguyen told the Guardian in February.

Nguyen then contacted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who began working with her to craft the bill, eventually introducing it in February. “Beginning today, our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault,” Shaheen said in a statement Friday. “I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice.”

The act passed unanimously in the House last month and by voice vote in the Senate last week. Obama signed the bill on Friday, two weeks after the White House launched a new effort to combat sexual assault for the youngest survivors—those in K-12 schools.

This story has been updated.

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Obama Just Signed a Bill of Rights for Sexual-Assault Survivors

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Sci-fi writers dream up what future Olympic Games will look like

for the win

Sci-fi writers dream up what future Olympic Games will look like

By on Aug 3, 2016Share

Future Olympics games might want to take a cue from science fiction writers.

To find out what the future of the Games might hold, Huffington Post pulled together predictions by some of the most forward-thinking minds of our time. Their ideas range from the wacky (will athletes with entirely synthetic DNA compete?) to thought-provoking (eliminating categories by gender).

Malka Older, author of Infomocracy, idealizes Games that would move away from larger-than-life stadiums and corporate sponsorships and toward something called the Sustainable Olympics:

These Games would be held without any new construction, without packed sunbaked parking lots or rushed and unsafe facilities or dead workers. They would be broadcast to anyone who wanted to watch them, and without any sob story backgrounds beyond what the athletes themselves chose to tell. They would be low-key, low-maintenance, low-carbon, and yet the stakes would still be high: to be named the best in the world.

The writers don’t forget our old frenemy, climate change, either. Author Madeline Ashby expects some sports to go defunct. “After all, how can you have winter sports when winter is only a memory?”

Fair enough, Ashby. That future isn’t far off, as the Olympics have already started using fake snow.

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Sci-fi writers dream up what future Olympic Games will look like

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