Charitygate Becomes Even Murkier Today

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


One of the oddities of the whole Trump Foundation scandal is the fact that at least a few of the donations to the foundation were actually fees owed to Trump personally. Comedy Central, for example, gave the foundation $400,000 in lieu of paying Trump for a televised roast he attended. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold is on top of this, of course, and asked one of Trump’s campaign advisors about it:

“He’s never directed fees to the foundation,” said Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, who responded on the campaign’s behalf in a phone interview on Saturday. Epshteyn said that what Trump did was provide a service, renounce any fees, and then merely suggest that the other party make a donation to a charity of their choosing.

I swear I don’t know whether to laugh or pound the keyboard at stuff like this. Epshteyn sounds like the godfather here. Trump merely “suggested” that folks donate to some charity somewhere, and it all just happened to end up at Trump’s charity.

Legally, the issue here is that if the money is owed to Trump, he has to pay taxes on it. If it goes straight to his foundation, he doesn’t. And apparently one of Eric Trump’s assistants pretty much admitted this is what happened:

Last week, an employee of the Trump Organization, the candidate’s private company, offered an explanation. “A lot of times Mr. Trump will give a speech somewhere or he’ll raise money in some way and he asks that entity, instead of cutting a personal check to him, cut it to his charity,” said Lynne Patton, an assistant to Trump’s son Eric, who is also an officer of the Eric Trump Foundation. “That’s money that otherwise would’ve been in his personal account, right?”

Trump aides threw Patton under the bus (“she wouldn’t know or understand”) and then offered a more convoluted version of the excuse that Trump never told anyone which charity to give his fees to. Legally, that meant Trump didn’t owe any taxes on the money. And then, by an enormous coincidence, the donors just happened to choose the Trump Foundation:

Trump, Epshteyn said…had not exercised control over where his money went. Indeed, Epshteyn said, when Trump helped someone, he never asked specifically for a gift to the Donald J. Trump Foundation — but rather suggested a gift to some charity, somewhere.

But sometimes, Epshteyn said, a gift arrived at the Trump Foundation. “He’s Donald J. Trump,” Epshteyn said, explaining why donors had chosen this particular charity.

….So which of the Trump Foundation’s donations came in this way? Epshteyn could not cite a specific example. He then challenged The Post to find an example that proved him wrong.

The Post asked about the 2011 gift from Comedy Central….Epshteyn conceded that Trump had, indeed, controlled where this money went. It was his income. And, Epshteyn said, he paid taxes on it.

Could he provide proof of that tax payment?

“Absolutely not,” Epshteyn said.

No one sentient can possibly believe this nonsense. It’s obvious that Trump has long treated his foundation as a sort of personal slush fund, a handy way to have a bit of tax-free cash around to hand out like walking-around money. How is it possible that Fahrenthold is still the only reporter around who seems interested in this?

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate