Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is serving prison time for understating his income to the IRS, and for overstating his income to banks. Trump's former executive vice president and special counsel, Michael Cohen, is also serving prison time, for, among other things, making false statements to a bank.
And Donald Trump? A lot of people want to see his taxes: At least two congressional committees. The Manhattan District Attorney. Trump doesn’t want ANYONE to see them. He’s gone to court three times to make sure they stay secret. The court fight is ongoing. Trump's tax documents remain walled off.
Heather Vogell of ProPublica found some anyway. She compared them to financial documents Trump filed with his lender — and discovered that certain key numbers don't match.
Heather spoke with over a dozen experts in accounting, law, and real estate. Not a single one of them could explain the discrepancies away.
In the past two weeks, we've heard a lot about efforts by President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to push officials in Ukraine to investigate Trump's opponents. As the news has unfolded, it has introduced us to a litany of unfamiliar characters in both Ukraine and the U.S., many of whom were working with Giuliani or, in some fashion, on behalf of the president.
Trump, Inc. co-host Ilya Marritz was in Kiev last week following the trail of Giuliani in an effort to understand more about these obscure figures who have suddenly become so important.
One thing that became clear during his travels: Giuliani's "anti-corruption" efforts involved working with men who have their own questionable histories.
We reached out to Giuliani as well as the White House. We have not heard back.
Here is a rundown of key players in Giuliani's efforts.
The Former Prosecutor Fired for Not Going After Corruption…
Viktor Shokin was Ukraine's general prosecutor in 2015, a position akin to attorney general. He was responsible for investigating corruption. But according to U.S. officials, NGOs and the International Monetary Fund, he was not actually doing this.
Giuliani has claimed that then-Vice President Joe Biden improperly pushed for Shokin's removal to avoid an investigation into Biden's son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. There is no evidence that is true.
According to the now-famous whistleblower's report, Shokin spoke with Giuliani over Skype late last year in a call arranged by two Giuliani associates. (More on them in a moment.)
In response to our questions, Shokin declined comment, explaining that he’s out of the country.
The Former Prosecutor Who Was Not a Lawyer…
Yuriy Lutsenko took over the job of prosecutor general from Shokin in 2016. He got the job after allies in Parliament changed the law to allow the position to be filled by someone without a law degree. Lutsenko has no legal training.
Lutsenko once told a reporter that the U.S. ambassador had given him " .
Lutsenko has said he's spoken with Giuliani " to loop him in.
In the spring, Lutsenko told a reporter he " against the Bidens, and said he had told Giuliani that any investigation should be conducted "through prosecutors, not through presidents."
In response to our questions, Lutsenko denied any wrongdoing. He was fired earlier this year.
The Current Prosecutor Caught on Tape…
Nazar Kholodnytsky is now Ukraine's top anti-corruption prosecutor. Audio tapes Kholodnytsky in unrelated cases coaching a witness to give false testimony and tipping off suspects to police raids. Kholodnytsky acknowledged the tapes were authentic, but said they were taken out of context.
Earlier this year, the U.S.’s then-ambassador to Ukraine called for Kholodnytsky’s firing. She explained, "Nobody who has been recorded coaching suspects on how to avoid corruption charges can be trusted to prosecute those very same cases." (The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her position shortly after.)
Kholodnytsky and Giuliani met in Paris in May 2019. Kholodnytsky The Washington Post the discussion was private, "prosecutor to a former prosecutor." Kholodnytsky told the Post that he had questions about the Bidens as well as the prosecution of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.
When the Post asked Giuliani about the meeting, he said, "I'm not going to tell you about that."
Kholodnytsky told us he was too busy to answer our questions.
Giuliani’s Special Envoys…
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are two Ukrainian-American businessmen who have worked with Giuliani and introduced him to the Ukrainian prosecutors. Giuliani has described them as his travel plans.
In a detailed story about their work with Giuliani, Parnas Buzzfeed they did nothing wrong. "All we were doing was passing along information," Parnas said. He added, "We’re American citizens, we love our country, we love our president."
Parnas was sued for allegedly defrauding investors in a movie he was involved with, "Anatomy of an Assassin."
"He conned us from day one," one of the investors the Miami Herald, adding, "He financially ruined us." Parnas lost the case but has denied wrongdoing. "The truth is going to come out about that judgment," he has said.
Fruman is well-connected in Ukraine, where he owns a number of businesses, including , a beach club in Odessa. Fruman and Parnas have been political contributors in the U.S. Last year, they set up a Delaware LLC that weeks later contributed $325,000 to a Trump-allied political group.
Giuliani was by Congress this week regarding his communications with Parnas and Fruman.
Parnas and Fruman did not respond to our requests for comment.
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.
In August, at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, a tall man with a Viking beard and an elegant gray suit walked out on a stage, carrying a stack of red Make America Great Again hats, tossing them to an adoring crowd, shouting "Four more years!"
The man is Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who vaulted from a mid-level web designer to digital strategist for the 2016 Trump campaign and now manages the 2020 incarnation, Donald J. Trump for President Inc., which he claims will be America's first billion-dollar campaign. And as he's been doing this, Parscale has figured out ways to enrich himself and his firms, at various times collecting a salary from the Trump campaign, payments from the Republican National Committee and money from a super PAC, America First Action.
Like Trump, Parscale is a man who's reinvented himself, from working for a family company that declared bankruptcy to being a middling businessman, to becoming a high-profile avatar for Donald Trump.
ProPublica's Peter Elkind joined Trump, Inc. to talk about and the political juggernaut Parscale is assembling to re-elect the President.
Here's what Elkind says about Parscale and the stories he tells about himself: "He changes dates. He rearranges facts. He omits conspicuous events. He basically rewrites his own life story to become a more romantic tale, to fit into the image that he's trying to convey. He is a promoter, he's a hustler, he's a marketer." In short, Brad Parscale is a lot like his boss. To find out more, listen to the episode.
The Family Business
The Trump, Inc. podcast from WNYC and ProPublica is back. And we'll be bringing you new episodes every two weeks.
When we started all the way back in early 2018, we laid out how we'd be digging into the . After all, by keeping ownership of that business, Trump has had dueling interests: the country and his pocketbook.
We've done dozens of episodes over the past 18 months, detailing how predatory lenders are .
We've noticed something along the way. It's not just that the president has mixed his business and governing. It's that the way Trump does business is spreading across the government.
Trump's company isn't like most big businesses. It is accountable to only one man, it has ."
Those traits are now popping up in the government. It may seem like the news from Washington is a cacophony of scandals. But they fit clear patterns — patterns that Trump has brought with him from his business.
The Questions Mueller Didn't Ask
Perhaps you’ve heard: Special counsel Robert Mueller . There’s plenty of analysis about who won and who didn’t. We’re skipping that part. Instead, on a special, speedy episode of Trump, Inc. we’re focusing on the few tidbits that were actually revealing and how it came to be that there weren’t more.
ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger and Heather Vogell talk with WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein about the many things we didn’t learn and why. They discuss potential mistakes during the investigation, avenues Mueller didn’t explore and witnesses — like the president — he decided not to try to question in person.
Mueller’s testimony is over. His report is done. And his office is closed. But there are plenty of critical yet unanswered questions remaining. And we’re still digging. Listen to the episode t o hear what we still want to know.