Ivanka and Jr. were being investigated for felony fraud. Then daddy’s lawyer stepped in with the DA.

In 2008/9, the Trumps found themselves trying to sell condo-hotel units in the Trump Soho. They suffered from impeccably bad timing, the global financial crisis had just hit and no one wanted to buy US real-estate. Ivanka and Jr. were in charge of sales and were struggling to sell units. Caught in a bind, they resorted to making stuff up to entice buyers.

New York prosecutors were preparing a case. Then the D.A. overruled his staff after a visit from a top donor: Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

— www.propublica.org/…

The New Yorker also has the story, this was a joint investigation with ProPublica.

From the story, it looks like the Major Economic Crimes unit had a good case. Then three things happened:

  • The Trump organization settled the civil suit with buyers and imposed a gag order as part of the settlement.
  • Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz went to see the Manhattan D.A., Cyrus Vance. Kasowitz had contributed to Vance’s campaign and would contribute again months later.
  • Vance instructed the Major Crimes Unit not to prosecute.

There’s a side-bar. Vance returned Kasowitz’s original contribution before killing the case. Conflict of interest you see. Except, a few months later, Kasowitz hosted a fundraiser that netted far more in contributions. Vance is now saying (five years later), that he will return all the contributions from Kasowitz. This is, of course, after being outed in the press.

I have three observations about this saga:

  1. The Trumps are con-artists. But we already knew that, this is why no one in NYC will do business with them. They need a steady supply of marks from the provinces, overseas.*
  2. Trump actively undermines the rule of law. He bays for punitive action against those he dislikes. He demands impunity for friends and family. This was problematic when he was a run-of-the-mill NYC billionaire since impunity for the powerful undermines our legal and political system. It is a critical threat with him as president.
  3. ProPublica does amazing investigative reporting. You should follow them.

*  People in NYC have a lot of information on Trump. We’ve seen him do business and operate for decades. 90% refused to vote for him, though he’s a native New Yorker. Simply by virtue of being in NYC, the Trumps have access to a steady stream of people who do not have any experience with them. It’s a target rich environment. Paradoxically, higher interconnectedness may exacerbate scams and cons. Immediate access to lots of information can create an illusory sense of confidence. A lot of breadth, but not enough depth to make informed decisions. This is an environment in which people like Trump can thrive despite repeated failures and mis-adventures. As long as they can maintain a thin veneer of success the new guy on the block will continue to fall for their cons.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org