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Trump Inc – a podcast series from ProPublica and WNYC – #43 – The Trump Inauguration’s ‘Unconscionable Contract’

05/05/2020

About the series

Podcasts are a good form for presenting the surreality of this era, Eric Umansky, an editor at ProPublica, told me recently. “You can capture the absurdity in ways that you can’t in text,” he said. The excellent investigative podcast that he works on, “Trump Inc.,” from WNYC and ProPublica, began in February and concludes next week. Its premise is at once straightforward and audacious: it asks big, specific questions about Donald Trump’s famously mysterious business dealings, including those concerning possible connections between his Presidency and his profits; investigates them; and encourages listeners to pitch in and help. It features several personable, savvy-sounding reporters: Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, of WNYC, and Jesse Eisinger and Heather Vogell, of ProPublica, and it has a collaborative spirit. Reporters from other outlets (including The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson) offer additional information and insights. One episode features David Fahrenthold, of the Washington Post, answering listener questions; another was inspired by a comment that Fahrenthold made about Trump suing local municipalities in which he had businesses; a listener tip resulted in a mini-episode about Trump commissioning golf-tee markers with the Presidential seal on them. Umansky told me that one “superfan” listener “went to the courthouse in Westchester to look up cases for us.” Everybody gets to be a detective. Or, as the show’s Web site puts it, “Help Us Dive Into the Swamp.” 

 

 

About this episode – The Trump Inauguration’s ‘Unconscionable Contract’

 Reporters Ilya Marritz and Justin Elliott have been reporting on Trump’s inauguration since 2018. They looked at how the inaugural committee raised a record $107 million (and the big questions behind where that money went) and examined the role Ivanka Trump played in negotiations over space at the Trump International Hotel, located just blocks from the White House.

Those negotiations, first reported by Trump, Inc. in 2019, are now the subject of a civil suit filed by the District of Columbia’s attorney general. “Members of the Trump family were aware of and involved in the negotiation of this unconscionable contract,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine wrote in the complaint charging the Trump inaugural committee and the Trump Organization with using around $1 million of charitable funds to improperly enrich the Trump family, filed Wednesday, January 22.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization dismissed the D.C. suit in an emailed statement: “The AG’s claims are false, intentionally misleading and riddled with inaccuracies. The rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude and were reflective of the fact that [sic] hotel had just recently opened, possessed superior facilities and was centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The AG’s after the fact attempt to regulate what discounts it believes the hotel should have provided as well as the timing of this complaint reeks of politics and is a clear PR stunt.”

 

 

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