The Trump Organization, not unlike the Trump administration, is rife with stories of corruption and grift, incompetence due to the cutting of corners, and general crapulence. ProPublica and New York Public Radio station WNYC have published a brand-new joint investigative story about how Trump’s business interests in 1980s-1990s New York City included the bribing of tax assessors in order to lower The Apprentice host’s property taxes. Speaking with five former city employees and one former Trump organization employee, the reporters heard testimony implicating Trump’s business interests more directly in connection with a real estate housing scam that came to light in 2002.
The five former city employees were among more than a dozen who had been indicted in 2002, in what The New York Times called the “largest tax fraud case in the history of New York City government.” Trump has always maintained that he was ignorant of any of this happening, including the claim that in “one instance, tax payments on property owned by Donald Trump were instead applied to the account of a corrupt property owner.”
The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten said that the ProPublica report was old news, and that all previous investigations had cleared Donald Trump and the Trump Organization of any wrongdoing. Pointing out that “at no time did the Trump Organization or any of its employees or principals ever pay anyone for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining a lower tax valuation,” Garten called the report “reckless” and questioned the outlet’s journalistic ethics.
However, this is not simply a re-reporting of what happened before. ProPublica and WNYC report now that two of the former New York City employees say they took bribes themselves “from middlemen representing the Trump Organization to lower assessments on 40 Wall St. after Trump took over the skyscraper in 1995.” Frank Valvo, a former city assessor who served prison time for the fraud, says he remembers a co-worker telling him that the Trump Organization had agreed to pay bribes, saying there was elation between him and the other corrupt city worker.
According to the men ProPublica spoke with, the bribes came in the form of envelopes handed over to them. Once, upon receiving an envelope they thought was a little light, they were told that “Donald Trump thought the employee should be making the assessment changes for free.” This is amazing, pointing to Trump’s narcissistic belief that laws shouldn’t apply to him, and that he shouldn’t even have to pay into the rigged system he himself benefits the most from.
Moreover, according to the report, a former Trump Organization employee was able to say that he or she knew that Trump had a meeting arranged with Thomas McArdle. McArdle, his son Stephen E. McArdle, and a man named Joseph Marino were cited by all of the indicted and convicted assessors as the middlemen involved in the New York City scam in 2002. While Trump did not end up attending this reported meeting with McArdle, the former employee told ProPublica that that meeting did take place and that it included money and false information to hand over to the city’s assessors to lower the property evaluation.
Trump has denied knowing McArdle or ever using him as a consultant or in any other way. As ProPublica points out, Trump sued the city in 2002, saying, ”I’m getting ready to bring a major lawsuit against all the property owners whose taxes I was funding, because I was honest and used legal channels. The other people used illegal channels and got better results.” He received a $100 million tax break as part of an agreement involving a secondary lawsuit he launched against the city at the same time over building affordable housing.