In the culmination of a years-long investigation and a series of legal skirmishes, the New York State Attorney General Letitia James accused the former president of systematically misstating the value of his properties.
It appears there was a reason for the former president’s unhinged rant of yesterday suggesting that members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign had spied on him and that “in a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.”
Trump is likely unhappy because of a letter his accountants, the firm Mazars, sent to the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer on February 9. That letter came to light today when New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the finances of the Trump Organization, filed new court documents to explain why she wanted to question Trump and his adult children under oath.
The Mazars letter told the Trump organization that Trump’s financial statements from years ending June 2011 through June 2020 could not be relied upon to be accurate, and that it should tell anyone relying on those documents—banks, for example—that they were not reliable. It went on to say there was now a “non-waivable conflict of interest” with the Trump Organization that meant that Mazars was “not able to provide new work product” for the organization.
Lawyer George Conway interpreted the letter for non-lawyers. He tweeted:
“‘decision regarding the financial…statements’=they are false because you lied
‘totality of the circumstances’=the D.A. is serious
‘non-waivable conflict of interest’=we are now on team D.A.
‘not able to provide new work product’=sorry we’re not going to jail for you”
That is, it appears that Mazars is now working with James’s office. Last month, James’s office alleged that there is “significant” evidence that the Trump Organization manipulated asset valuations to obtain loans and avoid taxes. Now Trump’s accountants appear to be working with her office and have said that Trump’s past ten years of financial statements “should not be relied upon.”
This will probably be a problem for the banks that have loaned money to Trump. Their officers have likely relied on the accuracy of the information Trump provided, and according to lawyer Tristan Snell, the lenders could now call in loans early or otherwise change the terms of their agreements.
The Trump Organization jumped on the statements in the Mazars letter that “we have not concluded that the various financial statements, as a whole, contain material discrepancies,” and that “Mazars performed its work in accordance with professional standards” to claim that it is exonerated from any wrongdoing. “This confirmation,” it wrote, “effectively renders the investigations by the DA and AG moot.”
NBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner tweeted: “Trump Org[anization] tries to spin it as a complete exoneration (& G[eorge] Orwell blushes).” Orwell was famous for identifying “doublespeak,” language that reverses the meaning of words.
But while the fear of what it means for him that his accountant has dropped him might have inspired Trump’s rants about executing Hillary, the same does not hold for Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who on Sunday’s Fox & Friends broadcast agreed with Trump that Clinton’s aides had spied on him, and implied the punishment for such alleged espionage should be death.
The normalization of violence as part of the mainstream Republican Party is cause for concern.
The news grabbing the headlines today is the congressional fight over the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made demands of the Democrats that he evidently expected Democrats to refuse, enabling him to object to the commission by claiming it was partisan. But the Democrats agreed to his conditions, forcing him to object in such a way that it was clear he is simply covering for the former president and, likely, for himself, because he does not want to have to testify to what he observed or participated in in the days around that event (including, for example, the hostile phone call with Trump when McCarthy was inside the besieged Capitol).
McCarthy and the Republican whip, Steven Scalise (R-LA), whose job is to get Republican members to vote along the lines leadership requires, set out to get Republican representatives to oppose the creation of the commission. But when the House voted on the bill this afternoon, 35 Republicans broke ranks to join the Democrats and vote to create the commission. The defections were a sign that McCarthy and the Trump caucus do not entirely own the House Republicans yet; 35 Republicans would like to know what the heck happened on January 6. One hundred and seventy-five Republicans want to sweep the whole event under the rug. The final vote on the bill to create the commission was 252-175.
Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) spoke for those of us who are gobsmacked that anyone could say we do not need to investigate the most profound attack on our democracy in our history. He thanked the Republicans supporting the creation of the independent commission and then turned on the rest. “Benghazi. You guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country? Cops: this is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States. If we’re going to take on China, if we’re going to rebuild the country, if we’re going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality—and you ain’t one of them.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced he will not support it. After Trump’s second impeachment trial, McConnell said that he hadn’t voted to convict Trump because the former president would face punishment later. Now he has attacked the bipartisan commission as partisan and said, “It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” implying that there has been an investigation already—there has not—and that the fact we don’t know what such a commission would uncover means we have no need to uncover it.
All of this matters because the January 6 insurrection was an attack on our democracy, and the Republican Party has concluded that they do not want us to know what happened. A number of Republicans have said they believe that “Antifa” was behind the riot; if they really thought that were the case, wouldn’t they want an investigation?
The only logical conclusion is that they are afraid of what an investigation will uncover. And, in fact, that’s precisely what Republican senators are saying: they do not want an investigation to color the 2020 election. Today Senate Republican whip John Thune (R-SD) said that the findings of any investigation “could be weaponized politically and drug into next year” (although the bipartisan agreement requires the investigation to be over by the end of 2021). After years of weaponizing investigations—Benghazi, Secretary of State Clinton’s emails, Hunter Biden—the Republicans are facing an investigation, based in reality, that likely will reflect badly on them. They want no part of it.
But it is going to be very difficult to stuff back into the bottle the genie of interest in what the heck went on during the Trump administration. Yesterday’s announcement by New York Attorney General Letitia James that her office’s investigation into the Trump Organization has become a criminal investigation sparked fireworks from the former president. Today he issued a long, rambling statement that rehashed all his complaints about, well, everything, but the centerpiece was James’s announcement. It was weird and unhinged, even for him, and suggested that he is very worried that there will be criminal charges forthcoming.
And today a filing from the Department of Justice showed that, under Biden, the department has found the parents of 54 more children, from whom they were separated at our southern border by the Trump administration in an attempt to stop refugees from entering the country. The previous administration separated at least 2800 children from their parents. Shortly after he took office, Biden created a task force in the Department of Homeland Security to reunite families. The parents of 391 migrant children have still not been found.
Lankum pictured before a performance at Berlin on New York’s Lower East Side in October. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT
Award-winning Dublin ballad group Lankum played at New York City’s Mercury Lounge last week, and I had a lovely time checking them out. The band, which had encountered visa issues that required the cancellation of a few gigs prior to their New York show (a circumstance that is far too common these days), had arrived in that day and were experiencing severe jet lag, but performed stoically, with fortitude, to a packed and very appreciative crowd of young New Yorkers.