Intelligence Community Releases Declassified Report on Russia’s Influence of the Election

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Late last week, the intelligence community released their report following an investigation into the alleged influence of the 2016 election by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Intelligence agencies. The report is a declassified version of a much more detailed report which concluded that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” It went on to say that Putin’s motives were to “denigrate” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that he had “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” The report details the reasons Putin does not like Clinton and outlines the ways the Russian government influenced the election including the hacking of John Podesta and the DNC, leaks to WikiLeaks, and hacking the RNC. Read the full report below or download a PDF copy HERE.

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News Source: The New York Times

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FBI Releases Additional Docs, State Releases Emails

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Last week, the FBI and State Department released documents related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. The FBI released 299 pages of internal records detailing a fight between the bureau and the State Department over the classification of an email regarding arrests related to the attacks on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The report includes internal emails as well as internal memos that shed additional light into the investigation of Clinton’s emails by the FBI. Read the report below or download a PDF copy HERE.

Meanwhile, the State Department released 371 of the 15,000 emails that were turned over to the department by the FBI. The total document dump totaled over 1,000 pages and are “near duplicates” of the documents turned over by Clinton’s team in 2014. The State Department has been reviewing the emails turned over by the FBI since late summer 2016 and has reported that about 60% of the emails were personal in nature and not related to business. Of the emails that relate to Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, the department reports that a “substantial number” of them are duplicates of those that have been previously reviewed. The State Department will continue to review and release the emails until all 15,000 have been examined. You can access the latest batch of emails by following the steps below:

  1. Go to http://foia.state.gov/Search
  2. Type “F-2016-07895” in the Case Number field
  3. Click on the arrow next to the “Posted Date” column header and select “Sort Descending” so that the recently released documents show first
  4. Click the title of the document in the “Subject” field to open a PDF copy

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News Source: Politico, The Hill

Trump’s Tax Troubles

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In just the few days since the New York Times published its latest groundbreaking report, Donald Trump has faced ongoing fallout from his “legally dubious” tax avoidance that even his own lawyers thought wouldn’t hold up to IRS scrutiny – as well as new reporting on his various efforts  to avoid paying millions in taxes. The ongoing reporting underscores the urgency of Trump releasing his tax returns before Election Day. While his campaign has objected to these stories, they refuse to release his tax returns – including just-filed returns that would not be under audit – to provide evidence of any untruths.

His behavior also raises important questions, including one that was posited by the New York Times Editorial Board: “Why would a man who has spent most of his professional life avoiding the shared responsibility of taxes all of a sudden care about helping others, especially those less fortunate?”

NEW Reporting

New York Times: Donald Trump Used Legally Dubious Method to Avoid Paying Taxes: “Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. ‘Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,’ said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.”

Wall Street Journal: Income Taxes Aside: Donald Trump’s Other Tax-Avoidance Moves: “The Journal has found several additional examples of state and local tax issues for Mr. Trump and his companies that are little known or not previously reported on.”

  1. “A vendor said in a legal deposition in 2008 that Mr. Trump refused to pay $48,000 in sales taxes on draperies for a Las Vegas property.”
  1. “At least five federal, state and local tax collection agencies took out at least 26 liens on Mr. Trump’s businesses and him personally since the late 1990s due to claims that Mr. Trump or his businesses didn’t pay sales taxes, withholding taxes, or other corporate taxes.”
  1. “The biggest amount in liens and warrants, totaling about $11.8 million, were for corporate taxes imposed on his Indiana casino business in the early 2000s.”

Washington Post: This is the portrait of Donald Trump that his charity bought for $20,000: “Tax experts say that if Trump hung the painting at one of his homes or businesses, he may have violated laws against “self-dealing.” Those laws prohibit charity leaders from using money from their nonprofits to buy things for themselves, or for their businesses. In recent weeks, The Washington Post has reported other instances in which Trump may have violated those rules.”

Additional Fall-Out

New York Times Editorial Board: Avoiding Taxes, Trump-Style: “Indeed, even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers were advising him against this approach, one tax expert wrote that trying to find legal support for it was like trying to find evidence for ‘the existence of the Loch Ness monster.’”

Washington Post: A big, dirty secret from Donald Trump’s tax returns has been exposed: “Experts had missed Trump’s maneuver, Kleinbard said, because they did not think that it would have been allowed at the time… ‘The real surprise here is that he apparently got away with it’ … Kleinbard said that he would have enjoyed bringing Trump to court on behalf of the authorities in order to force him to pay up. ‘I would have been certain that I would have won.'”

Vox: Two experts say Donald Trump should be investigated for criminal tax evasion: “Various aspects of this almost certainly violate the laws governing charities (he’s already been sanctioned by the state of New York), but several experts are also raising the question of whether Trump is guilty of criminal tax evasion… But both Philip Hackney, a former IRS attorney now working as a professor of tax law, and Adam Chodorow, a tax law professor at Arizona State University, have written that the elements exist to at least begin an investigation.”

New York Times: How Donald Trump Avoided Paying Taxes Using Other People’s Money: “The story of how Mr. Trump sidestepped a potentially ruinous tax bill emerged from documents recently discovered by The Times during a search of casino bankruptcy filings. Mr. Trump structured his companies to allow him to have lucrative personal tax advantages, while limiting his personal liability should business go bad.”

Vanity Fair: How Donald Trump Used Other People’s Money to Avoid Paying Taxes: “Donald Trump is both unapologetic about using “other people’s money” whenever possible, and proud of the way he allegedly avoided paying income tax for years by writing off nearly a billion dollars in losses, as The New York Times first reported last month. Now, a new trove of documents obtained by the Times reveals how Trump combined both of those things to wipe out his liabilities, using investors’ money to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income in the form of canceled debt on his floundering casino empire—a maneuver that even his own lawyers warned would likely get him in trouble with the I.R.S.”

Mother Jones: NYT: We’ve Figured Out How Trump Gamed the Tax System: “If I’m reading this right, the basic story is that Trump gave his banks “New Bonds” in place of their old bonds and classified the new bonds as equity shares in the casino partnership. Trump then valued the equity as equal to the old debt, thus showing no net loan forgiveness and therefore no COD income. This despite the fact that, in reality, the equity was close to worthless.”

Vox: Donald Trump used a dubious loophole to make millions in taxable income disappear: “He has previously boasted publicly of his extensive and detailed knowledge of the tax code, which seems like a good prima facie reason to at least look into it a little. And the New York Times’s latest revelations show a man who was deliberately and knowingly aggressive in his tax strategies in other realms of his personal finances, intentionally pushing forward with a strategy his lawyers said would likely be disallowed.”

MSNBC: Trump stretched tax loopholes ‘beyond any recognition’: “The fact that Donald Trump didn’t pay federal income taxes for many years is not in dispute – because the Republican presidential candidate admitted it during a nationally televised debate. There is some question, however, about whether or not Trump’s exploitation of tax loopholes was entirely legal…. Don’t try this at home. Trump has tried to get away with tax maneuvers the typical American should not attempt.”

Los Angeles Times: Clinton renews calls for Trump to release tax returns following report he skirted laws: “Trump’s attorneys advised him at the time that if he were audited, the Internal Revenue Service would not look favorably upon the tactic, according to the report. For months now, Trump has eschewed releasing his tax returns, claiming he was under audit by the IRS. However, even while being audited, Trump could still release his returns, experts have said.”

Slate: We Now Have an Even Clearer Picture of How Brazenly Trump Tried to Avoid Paying Taxes: “Now, thanks to the latest investigation of Trump’s taxes by the New York Times, our portrait of Trump as a taxpayer is a little bit clearer: He isn’t just a businessman who’s so brilliant he managed to lose, either outright or on paper, close to $1 billion. He’s also one who tried to push the law to its limits—and perhaps past them—to avoid paying the tax man.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Avoiding Taxes, Trump-Style

New York Times

Editorial Board

November 1, 2016

Donald Trump’s claim that he was smart for figuring out how not to pay federal income taxes was obnoxious when he said it, at least for the millions of Americans who pay their fair share. Now we learn that he was able to avoid some of those taxes decades ago with a tactic that is illegal now and was highly dubious even then.

In the 1990s, with his Atlantic City casinos and other businesses tottering on the verge of collapse, Mr. Trump negotiated a deal under which his creditors — investors and banks — would forgive part of the debt in exchange for equity in partnerships he controlled. Without such swaps, Mr. Trump would have had to report the forgiven debt as income, offsetting a big portion of the $916 million loss he claimed on his tax return in 1995. That loss allowed him to avoid paying taxes for up to 18 years.

It is impossible to know whether the Internal Revenue Service challenged Mr. Trump’s use of the swaps because, unlike every major party presidential nominee for nearly 40 years, he refuses to release his tax returns. But as The Times reported on Monday, the maneuver was so suspect that his lawyers advised against it.

And it’s clear that even then tax officials and federal lawmakers were hoping to end the practice because it allowed businesses and rich individuals to avoid taxes by swapping forgiven debt with equity that was worth little or nothing. Indeed, even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers were advising him against this approach, one tax expert wrote that trying to find legal support for it was like trying to find evidence for “the existence of the Loch Ness monster.”

Congress barred such swaps by corporations in 1993, and by partnerships, the business structure Mr. Trump uses, in 2004.

As is its habit, Mr. Trump’s campaign chose to regard these latest revelations as yet another display of his genius. But like any other effort to game the tax system, his tactics imposed real costs by shifting the burden to taxpayers who have no recourse to such strategies and must pay full freight, including people whose taxes are withheld and cannot shelter their income even if they want to.

It has become ever more difficult for the I.R.S. to police the kind of tax avoidance Mr. Trump has engaged in. The Republican-controlled Congress cut the I.R.S.’s budget by about $500 million in 2015, and last year the agency audited just 0.8 percent of individual taxpayers, down from 1.1 percent in 2010. Its enforcement staff has shrunk by 23 percent since 2010, to 39,000 people, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The latest disclosures about Mr. Trump’s taxes also further undercut the argument that he is uniquely qualified to fix what he has called a rigged system. Why would a man who has spent most of his professional life avoiding the shared responsibility of taxes all of a sudden care about helping others, especially those less fortunate? The truth is, of course, that he has no intention of doing so; according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Trump’s tax proposals would confer by far the greatest advantages on the wealthiest Americans.

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Statement on Trump’s Foreign Business Entanglements

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In response to new reporting from the Wall Street Journal on Donald Trump’s dangerous and unprecedented foreign business entanglements, Hillary for America deputy communications director Christina Reynolds issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump has business all around the world, and while he has failed to disclose full details of his business record, what we know is truly disturbing. The idea of a President Trump trying to negotiate with foreign leaders while having his business at stake is simply unacceptable and raises real questions about how he would handle matters of national security. This is just one more reason why he cannot be president.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

KEY POINT: “Those whom Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have worked with abroad include: the family of a developer in India who is a ruling-party politician, an Azerbaijani government minister’s son and a media company that became the Turkish president’s outlet of choice during the July 15 coup attempt.

No recent president has had a portfolio of international business interests as extensive as Mr. Trump’s—or as great a level of business engagement on his behalf by offspring, who have also played a role in his campaign.”

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News Source: The Wall Street Journal

HFA Statement on Report Exposing Trump’s Secret Line of Communication to Russia

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In response to a new report from Slate showing that the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia, Hillary for America Senior Policy Adviser Jake Sullivan released the following statement Monday:

“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.

This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.

This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin and endorsement of so many pro-Kremlin positions throughout this campaign. It raises even more troubling questions in light of Russia’s masterminding of hacking efforts that are clearly intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.”

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News Source: Slate

NEW REPORT: Trump’s False Philanthropy Exposed

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The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published yet another explosive report revealing Trump’s lack of charitable giving, despite his history of making dramatic public promises of donations, and detailing Trump’s misuse of his foundation. Hillary Clinton highlighted the new report in her remarks today at Wilton Manors, saying it was “truly stunning.”

Washington Post: “For as long as he has been rich and famous, Donald Trump has also wanted people to believe he is generous … It was, in large part, a facade. A months-long investigation by The Washington Post has not been able to verify many of Trump’s boasts about his philanthropy.”

Slate:The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has spent months going through records and talking to people to try to figure out whether Donald Trump is really as charitable as he claims to be. At this point in the campaign, it should surprise no one that the answer is no... Although Trump, particularly through his foundation, did give some money to charity over the years, much of it was self-serving and the dollar amounts of his contributions were often much less than what he made it seem.”

Today in Wilton Manors, Hillary Clinton highlights Trump’s “charitable giving, or lack thereof.”

“But yesterday the Washington Post published a report that was truly stunning. It starts with the story of a ribbon-cutting back in 1996 for a nursery school serving children living with HIV and AIDS in New York. Now, let me say, this is important in part to remember. This is a story about children with HIV and AIDS. So there was a big celebration honoring the donors who had supported the nursery school, and all the kids and their families, for whom this was the most important thing you can imagine. Because you know, back in the ‘90s, some of you remember.  Right? Children weren’t welcomed in school.

And then, unannounced and uninvited, guess who barges in? Donald Trump. He walks right up to the stage. He sat down in the seat that was being saved for a local developer who had made a generous donation. None of the people working for the charity knew why he was there. He wasn’t a donor at all. He had never given a single dollar to help build the school. He just wanted people to think he had. So he sat on the stage through the program, even posed for photographs, and when it was over, he got up and walked out. No explanation. No donation. Now really, who does that? What kind of person does that?  Really? I mean, who pretends to help kids with HIV and AIDS in order to make themselves look good? Well, I’ll tell you: The same kind of person who would pull a bait and switch on a high school chess team.

Back in 1997, he was principal for a day at a public school. That was a program we used to have in New York. The chess team was holding a bake sale to raise money to travel to a tournament. They were $5,000 short. He walked up to them and handed them a fake million dollar bill.  At first the kids and their parents were excited. Then they were devastated to learn it was a joke. So he gave them 200 bucks and drove away in his limousine. Now, this story does have a happy ending because a woman read the story about Donald Trump’s behavior, called the school, and donated the $5,000.  And the coach remembers this woman saying, “I am ashamed to be the same species as this man.”

Just this morning, Kellyanne Conway was pressed on Trump’s false philanthropy and was unable to provide any evidence that Fahrenthold’s reporting was anything other than spot-on.

WATCH: Kellyanne Conway Talks Tax Returns, Charity

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Tim Kaine mentioned a big story in the Washington Post that found Donald Trump’s personal giving has disappeared entirely in recent years after calling 420 plus charities with connection to trump. The post found one personal gift between 2008 and the spring of 2009. They call into question all of the promises he’s made about giving to charity. Will Trump release his tax returns and show what he’s given?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Not until our accountants and lawyers say we should.

[…]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Any contributions to charity over the last several years from the foundation? The Post couldn’t find any and you wouldn’t respond.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I’m told by those in charge of the Clinton Foundation —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump Foundation.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Excuse me, yes, George. He’s been incredibly generous with his time and money over the years. He started that foundation with just his money and the only contributor for a number of years.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But nothing over the last five years.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don’t know that.

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Statement From Hillary Clinton On California National Guard Scandal

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Monday, Hillary Clinton released the following statement in response to the disturbing report from the Los Angeles Times that soldiers are being told to repay thousands in old enlistment bonuses:

“I am appalled that National Guard officials are attempting to recoup money from soldiers who accepted bonuses a decade ago – with the active encouragement of government officials and through no fault of their own – for bravely enlisting to serve our country during a time of war. These troops deserve our support and our deepest gratitude; they served admirably and upheld their part of the bargain. It is unacceptable to now subject them and their families to undue financial burdens thanks to to mismanagement from the California National Guard and rigid bureaucracy on the part of the Pentagon.

I am calling on Congress to swiftly pass legislation to right this wrong. In the meantime, we should assist these families in identifying and applying for relief as well establishing an expedited review process. We simply cannot allow this type of mistreatment of veterans, for any reason.”

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New Source: The Los Angeles Times

HFA Statement on Latest Analysis of Trump’s Tax Plan

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In response to new reports on the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tax plans from the Tax Policy Center, Hillary for America Senior Policy Advisor Jacob Leibenluft released the following statement:

“This report is further evidence of the clear choice for voters in this election. According to an independent analysis, Hillary Clinton’s plan would provide middle-class tax relief and pay for investments in good-paying jobs by requiring the wealthy, Wall Street and large corporations to pay their fair share. Donald Trump’s plan is the most extreme form of trickle-down economics: adding more than $20 trillion to the debt over the next two decades by providing massive giveaways to the richest Americans. In fact, the report shows Trump will give as much tax relief to the top 1% as everyone else combined – even as he raises taxes on millions of working families with children. And what’s more, the Tax Policy Center has exposed a lie Trump told at Sunday night’s debate: while Clinton would close the carried interest loophole that allows Wall Street money managers to pay a lower rate than many middle-class families, Trump’s plan would actually make that loophole even worse.”

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HFA Statement on Report That Trump Used Business Failures to Avoid Paying Taxes

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Hillary for America Campaign Manager Robby Mook released the following statement following a report from The New York Times revealing that Donald Trump used his business losses to avoid paying income taxes.

“There it is. This bombshell report reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever. In one year, Donald Trump lost nearly a billion dollars. A billion. He stiffed small businesses, laid off workers, and walked away from hardworking communities. And how did it work out for him? He apparently got to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades — while tens of millions of working families paid theirs. He calls that ‘smart.’ Now that the gig is up, why doesn’t he go ahead and release his returns to show us all how ‘smart’ he really is?”

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News Source: The New York Times