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tv   After Words Andrea Bernstein American Oligarchs  CSPAN  February 1, 2020 10:00pm-11:02pm EST

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please read them there's a lot of effort that went into them a lot of nuance and new things and they are. and finally, none of this without - - would happen without jonathan and john and dad and all the interns that make this work. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] . . . . >> about their latest work. all "after words" programs are also available as podcasts. >> host: very happy to be joined here by andrea bernstein, the cohost of the trump inc. podcast and the author of the new book, "more than oligarchs." -- american oligarchs.
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i found it incredibly detailed and informative. andrea, one of the first things that struck me about reading your book was i feel like you're the perfect person for this because you've immersed yourself in new york, new jersey politics and real estate and business for a career, and now here we have not only the trumps and the kushners, but so many other new jersey and new yorkers who are, you know, running for president. there's cory booker, there's rudy giuliani, of course, in the middle of everything. why right now, do you think, there are so many new yorkers and new jersey folk who are, you know, at the upper levels of power in american politics? >> you know, it's such an interesting question because for so many years what i was covering, new york politics, there was a sense that new york was sort of out in the cold. not, of course, people like hillary clinton who, obviously, ran for president from new york, but there was a sense that somehow because new york wasn't iowa or new hampshire, it really
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wasn't an important state except for fundraising purposes. and one with of the things that -- one of the things that happened when trump was elected president was that he was so of this world that i had been covering, a world of new york real estate and wheeling and dealing and political donations that i felt almost a sense of only nation. i -- obligation. i have to cover trump and his business in the white house because i understand this world. i've been spending 25 years, i understand the patterns. and lo and behold, the stories are very similar to ones i might have been covering 20 years in new york. it's just that the stage is so much larger, and the consequences are so much more serious now. >> host: absolutely. i mean, again, i found it incredibly detailed. i encourage people who are trump supporters or people who are not trump supporters to read it and read it carefully. it's very well done. you know, one of the first
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parts, early parts of the book is this very detailed explanation of jared kushner's ancestors who are, some of whom are slaughtered by the nazis in poland. you know, he's jewish and he has jewish ancestors in europe. and some of them escaped, and it's very harrowing and really kind of a horrifying experience that his ancestors go through. and then some of them escape nazi germany and poland and make it to america. and you contrast that in a number of places with sort of the administration's immigration policy today. there something that you would want -- how do you think jared kushner squares those two things? >> guest: well, i think jared kushner's origin story is a fascinating story. and he does talk about being the grandson of holocaust survivors. and he talks about it as a story of american success. that his grandparents fellowed the nazis -- fled the nazis, survived, made it to america, came from nothing and built a
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business. and all of that is true. but what is not so apparent is the choices that his grandparents made to get to this country. now, i wanted to be clear, it's an incredible story of bravery and tenacity and escape. his grandmother was part of a small group of survivors of several nazi massacres who dug a tunnel out from the nazi ghetto, out from under the barbed wire expect searchlights and escaped and made it to the forest where they lived through a brutal polish winter. and after the war they went back to their town. now, they were jews, their town was then part of the soviet union. it was poland before the war, and then it was soviet union, and then it was occupied by the nazis and then occupied by the soviet union again, and now it's part of belarus. but they wanted to get out.
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they boarded a train to budapest saying they were greek because they thought it would be easier to get out. and then once they got to budapest, they walked and took the train and snuck across borders until they got to a refugee camp in italy. and then they got stuck there for three and a half years because even after the holocaust, u.s. immigration laws were very anti-semitic, and there was a quota for jews. so at one point, and this is by the account of the kushner family themselves, they describe it in a book that they wrote about their family history, jared kushner's grandfather took on his wife's maid p name. he -- maiden name. he renamed himself joseph kushner and presented himself as the son of his father-in-law because he understood it would be easier for immigration purposes. and they did get the visas, and they made it to new york. and they did what they had to do so that they could build a family and build a business and
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achieve great success and, ultimately, down the line see their grandson in one of the most powerful positions op -- on earth. the end of the story, i think as knows, their grandson works in a white house that is very, very restrictive when it comes to immigration policies and, in fact, is drastically reducing not only immigration, but the number of refugees that are admitted into the u.s. >> host: truly an amazing story of perseverance and courage by his ancestors. and amazing storytelling on your part. you know, now that he is, you know, i think people who have meant jared or are have read about him know that faith is a really important part of who he is. obviously, ivanka converted to become an orthodox jew to marry him, and that's his approach throughout the book. you can see how close he's with his family, how much they care and think about their ancestry. how do you think his faith informs his work in the white
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house today? >> guest: well, think it's a really complicated thread. and the reason i think it's complicated is because there's a couple of narrative lines that run through the book, and one has to do with rules and rule breaking. and, obviously, the kushner family broke rules to get here, they broke rules to achieve success in their business, and jared kushner is continuing to break norms in his white house position. obviously, he is also a very religious person, and i think it's exploring that tension that makes the book interesting reading because people, i tried hard not to present any of these people in a mono-dimensional way, but to present all the aspects of their characters including the religious faith and their response to it. >> host: one sort of question on in that continues to sort of eat at me a little bit is that, obviously, he's now part of an
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administration that has a very strict immigration policy which many, many americans support and others, obviously, oppose. i think you mentioned a low of only 18,000 refugees being allowed in america recently. at the same time, he's so proud of his ancestors who are immigrants and refugees. do you think that jared kushner fully supports, you know, sort of he sort of believes in the administration's immigration policy? or do you think that he sort of puts up with it so he can, you know, work on other things or make sort of advance other issues that are more important to him? >> guest: every time jared kushner is asked about this, he unequivocally supports his father-in-law. now, jared kushner comes from a family where loyalty and family ties are prized above everything, and he married into such a family. but i have never heard him criticize his father-in-law in the least. and whenever he's asked about his father-in-law's policies, he supports them 100%.
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one thing that was interesting to me coming from new york is there were, so the kushner family was a big family of democratic donors at one point. and a lot of democrats in new york assumed or felt or thought that jared kushner and ivanka trump were one of them, how they saw it. that they believed in their causes and they believed in their candidates. and there were quite a few of them who told me that when jared kushner and ivanka trump went to the white house, they knelt that they would -- they felt that they would have a back channel, that they would be able to prevail upon them to shape the president's policies. and there's a lot of levels of betrayal in my book, and there's family betrayal and there's brother against brother and brother against sister. but there is also the story of the betrayal of new york and the people that thought they were part of jared kushner's world and ivanka trump's world but were surprised when they got to
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the white house, and their entreaties were rebuffed. this is something i heard over and over again. >> host: right. i actually thought during the same time period it's very interesting to hear about jared and ivanka's relationship with rupert murdoch and his family and how they go vacation together. what do you make of that relationship? what do you think that jared and ivanka have learned from mr. murdoch? >> guest: so it's an interesting thing because jared kushner, when he was about 25, 26 years old, bought a weekly newspaper in new york called the new york observer. and people who worked there at the time sort of understood his politics to kind of be sort of left-centrist. and many of them told me that over the years they would be surprised that jared kushner would come in on a monday morning, and he would say, well, ivanka and i were with rupert or rupert and wendy murdoch when they were married and spoke about their weekend trips. first it was just sort of a
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social thing, and then jared kushner began espousing more conservative ideas, and his newspaper on his editorial page in the new york observer did too. and people saw it more and more as in the model of a rupert murdoch publication where it's understood that the publication is -- served a particular agenda. >> host: absolutely. you know, one of the things i think this book does best is it really details every chapter of president trump's real estate career. and you do it in really incredible detail. i encourage people who have either gotten to know the president by watching "the apprentice" or reading about him, but this is a detailed at of how he made his money. ing see many steps along the way in which mr. trump committed or nearly committed some kind of fraud or left business partners out to dry and in many cases made money anyway. and a certain portion of his
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money-making is relying on government programs which might surprise some people given his, you know, political positions. would you maybe share a couple of examples of times where the president used different programs to advance his business? >> sure. so the studio where i am sitting right now across the street from the grand hyatt hotel which used to be known as the commodore hotel. and this was the deal that made donald trump a real estate mogul. his father, fred trump, had been a successful real estate developer, but it was mostly in brooklyn and queens and the outer boroughs of new york. donald was much more interested in manhattan. fred trump thought manhattan was too risky, but donald trump wanted to come in. he had his eyes on this particular piece of property next to grand central terminal. but he wanted a tax break. he wanted a tax giveaway from the government. and he managed to ply his
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political connections which were sort of bequeathed from his father. his father had been a member of the madison political club in brooklyn for decades, and he and later donald gave a lot of money, and they went to the fundraising dinners, and they hired the lawyers for the club, and they were very tight. and out of that club came mayor bean. so when donald trump wanted to buy, purchase the commodore hotel. he had a meeting with the property owner, and he said we can get a meeting with the mayor. and he got a meeting with the mayor the next day. and the mayor said anything they want, with his arms around fred and donald trump, anything they want they get. and once donald trump was able to get -- what donald trump was able to get was the first tax break for commercial real estate for a hotel in the history of new york city. it had never been done before. so there'd been maybe breaks for affordable housing, but this was a commercial project. it was the biggest tax break in
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the history of new york. and when he got it, he sort of fooled both sides. is so he told the bank that he had state approval when he did not, and he told the state that he had bank approval when he did not. and, in fact, he filed a document with the state without the signature of the bank. but no one apparently noticed that it was unsigned by the bank when they approved the deal. and then he boasted about all of this in "the art of the deal." so that was how donald trump became a manhattan real estate developer, was through this project that was beset with political connections and fraud and self-dealing and double dealing. and that was really the beginning. and then after that he went on to other projects. he went on to trump tower which was put together in a similar way and his many, many other manhattan real estate projects that all have this similar
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outline of him working his political connections and being unabashed about not telling the truth when it served his business interests which is a pattern that all of us who cover this now still seed today. >> host: yeah. i think many people are familiar with trump being viewed as sort of a bad boy of real estate and each his character on "the apprentice," you know, he's cutting through red tape and firing people and willing to take big risks. people who have read his books, obviously, have learned about the lessons that he learned in atlantic city and in the casino business, etc. he also, obviously, runs afoul of the law a number of times, and these are documented examples where he has either been fined or had to pay settlements to people. trump university is an example of that, even though it isn't real estate. of all of his history that you know to well now, is there an example where he kind of nearly got caught when he didn't or got away with something that maybe really would have changed his career in a meaningful way?
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>> oh, so many times. i mean, one involved the very hotel which i was just discussing. in one aspect of the deal, he came under scrutiny from prosecutors in the eastern district of new york. and a grand jury was impaneled, and trump was under investigation for possibly hiring a lawyer, buying off a lawyer, essentially, who worked better other side. that's what they were looking on at. and when he was under investigation trump's lawyer at the time, roy cohn, said why don't you meet with the fbi agent at your father's house. he met the fbi agent at his then-wife vanna and his toddler son. for years the fbi starts to look at something that donald trump does, and he charms the agents,
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he takes them in his helicopter, takes them to 21 club, and they come away impressed and dazzled. and do not, ultimately, investigate him. so this happens in deal after deal after deal where he escapeds scrutiny. -- escapes scrutiny. i think the most recent example was a story that we wrote that involved his adult children, ivanka and don j.. >> i was just going to bring that up. i'm glad you mentioned that. >> guest: do you want me to keep going? >> host: that is an example where ivanka takes a prominent role on a project, and they appear that they came, you know, ivanka and donald trump jr. came very, very close to being in real trouble, in criminal trouble, and i'd love to hear more about it. >> guest: yes. so the trump family, donald sr.,
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donald jr. and ivanka were sued by some condo buyers in the trump soho condo hotel x. they said that the trump family lied and had vastly overstated how many unit were sold. so the reason this is important is i think anybody who buys real estate understands that if you're going to buy reality in an apartment building or on a street, the real estate is more valuable if people live in all the houses next door versus as if those houses or apartments were empty. and the trumps were sued for saying that they were 60% full when they were, in fact, not even 15% full. and the manhattan district attorney gets a look at it and starts to investigate. and he investigates and he investigates, and it moves through the office, and there's an e-mail trail in which trump's adult children are seen discussing this misrepresentation and their
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clear knowledge of it. so people who had seen the e-mails told me that there was no doubt that they had knowledge which was sort of what it takes to build a criminal case. but the trumps first hired a very powerful, well-connected and high-powered team of white collar lawyers to try to make it go away. and they didn't make it go away. the d.a.'s team kept proceeding with the case. to then trump's personal attorney mark kasowitz who, i'm sure, is familiar to a number of viewers, who had been a major donor, one of the largest donors to the manhattan district attorney, three months later over the objection of the prosecutors in his office, the district attorney closed the case. don jr., don sr., ivanka trump were never prosecuted for felony fraud in manhattan. but this was fairly close to when donald trump was getting ready to run for president.
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and people we spoke to, people close to the trumps thought this would have been a very, very bad situation. to run for president. and i think it's one of the cases where there's been -- the trump family has come closest to criminal charges. i mean, that was an investigation that was in full flower. >> host: right. yeah. and, again, this is a lot of zell lawsuits and disagreements with partners, etc., but i think that example is right. it's very recent, and it was really close to criminal chargings. >> guest: right. i mean, i think it explains a lot of what we're seeing now with the impeachment situation and with the other congressional investigations and with the current investigation by the manhattan d.a. into -- >> host: right. >> guest: -- where the president was extremely adept at fending off criminal investigations. so i he might charm fbi agents, he might threatening people, he might hire well connected
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lawyers, he might, as he did for many years, support the favored charity of the manhattan district attorney. there were all kinds of ways that he could get himself into good grace with law enforcement in new york and new jersey. he befriended a u.s. attorney in new jersey named chris christie when he had a lot of gambling interests going. so he made sure that he understood who his friends were and they understood who he was. and he was able to make it work for him. he was never charged in any criminal case. it is interesting to have that background sort of in the rearview mirror as we go into this impeachment situation where he is being called to account and where there is a public reckoning and where in some ways, even though he's president, he is not able to make things go away as he wants to. i think we can see now where this impeachment trial going, but one of the things, the interesting dynamics of having
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written about him and reported on all these decades of the ways that donald trump avoided law enforcement to actually be confronted with it first with the mueller report and now with the house impeachment inquiry, i think, is a revealing insight into how he must feel when investigators are literally at his door ten. >> host: right. he probably feels like he's been through something similar to this before, which is an amazing kind of thing to say. but he's escaped so many situations where it seemed like he was up against it and got out of it. >> guest: over and over again. >> host: yeah. the book is filled with close calls again and again in this book and, you know, it doesn't look, like you said, like impeachment will knock him out of the white house either. >> guest: in fact, if past is prologue, it will 'em bolding him. >> host: sure. >> guest: escapes the jaws of the law, he becomes bolder next time. and we saw that with the mueller report. mueller testified, and after his testimony was sort of widely
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sought to be a dud, the very next day president trump called the president of ukraine and asked him to do us a fave though. and that is the pattern that you see with donald trump all through his career, and it's one of the things i trace in the book. >> host: one of the last sort of 10 or 15 years of president trump's career, and you detail this as well, you know, he's come out of atlantic city, that's all behind him, but he is still not being linked to by any banks. and then he sort of manages through a number of different relationships to get some very large loans from deutsche bank. and this part of his career also, you know, there are some, there's some snippets to where with either donald trump jr. talk about doing business with russians and there's some purchases of real estate, and it adds up to mainly we're through the mueller report now, and some of people are hoping there's
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some unknown russian money or putin is behind trump's real estate empire in some way or russian oligarchs are behind it. what do you think the odds are that there is still some business connection between putin, russia and the trumps? >> guest: i think we just don't know. we just don't have the data. as you know, we don't have the president's tax returns. as you know, congress tried to get information about deutsche bank, and they file pd a subpoena, and -- filed a subpoena, and they said we're investigating money laundering, and we need to understand what happened in these practices. and trump sued the bank to prevent the bank from releasing any information even though the bank was willing to turn over those documents. that case is now going to the supreme court and will be heard in march before the supreme court. so we will learn, perhaps, if donald trump or deutsche bank will ever have to turn over any of that information. so the answer is we just don't have the documents and don't have the data. and as you well know, this is
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one of the fundamental frustrations about covering the business of trump is here's the president with vast international interests and networks, and we don't know who his investors are, and we don't know to whom he owes money, and we don't know who his partners are because the u.s. system, the system of disclosure, is not really set up to demand that information. there's sort of the first level of disclosure, but it doesn't really tell you who people are. >> host: sure. >> guest: so we're, i i feel like it's unsure. but one of the things that i really spent a lot of time thinking about in my book is, you know, so i covered corruption and money in politics for decades in new york. and one of the things that i did not realize was the flow of international former soviet union oligarchic money into new york real estate.
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so much money began coming in really in the sort of early part of this century. and it began flowing into real estate around the city and really, really propping it up. and this is coming at the period where the trumps cannot get any u.s. banks to support them, which is astounding when you think about it with the president of the united states really has trouble doing business with american banks because they were so so burnt by him. so when he got his loan with deutsche bank, he was in a situation where he, that's where he was looking to. he was looking to foreign licensing deals, he was looking to deutsche bank, he was looking to south korea, to the former soviet union, to anybody who could put money into his properties that wasn't going through the scrutiny of the u.s. banking system. and this happens at the same time that capital is flowing into new york more generally, and it does a appear that the trump family was able to harness
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that and, you know, through a lot of really good investigative reporting, some of your own and some other journalists, we have a clearer picture of that. but i still feel like we're only seeing really a tiny sort of crack of light in the door and not really the full light of day of what we would need to see to understand what these relationships are. >> host: sure. that makes sense to me. ivanka trump, of course, along with jared is now a white house adviser, a presidential adviser. you go through her career in great detail also. what do you think her role was at the president's company when they were in the priest sector -- private sector in. >> guest: so i think there's a couple of roles that ivanka ca had. i mean, think on sort of a general level he was really in charge of the hospitality business, the hotels. which, by the way, the hotel business prior to trump's
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president -- presidency generally got higher rankings that some of the other pieces of business trump did. and a lot of new yorkers have said to me that when she was starting out, so she, she didn't go to trump organization right from college but almost. and they said to me that when she was starting out, that trump would put her on the phone, and they wouldn't really understand why this was happening, but this happened to journalists, bankers, public officials. they were talking to donald trump x he would say here's ivanka. it was something his father did for him which put him right into the limelight at a very early age. so she becomes somebody who sort of reflects back positively on him. because she's smart and she understands business, and she doesn't seem to have the sort of outer borough kind of whiff that donald trump has.
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in a way he becomes the person to make everything acceptable in the family business. along the way, as i document in my book -- and there were a number of lawsuits about this -- she seems to herself have dipped into the trump family practices, in particular practices of misrepresentation pretty wholeheartedly. >> host: i would agree with that. i think the soho example is a good one and the dominican story that you detail -- >> guest: panama? >> host: oh, yeah, that's right. >> guest: there was a lawsuit in baja, california, where she had basically sent a letter around that turned up in the court papers to buyers. this was a property that, a development that was started right before the great recession. but one of the things that the buyers particularly were upset about is that ivanka trump kept saying to buyers, well, this property is not subject to
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market forces. and people lost their entire investments. nothing was ever built. and finally it was brought to a lawsuit, the trumps settled the lawsuit. but in the course of settling the lawsuit, ivanka trump defended the family's actions by saying, look, i'm sorry, we were victimming here too. but the trump organization -- victims here too. but the trump organization has never been stronger, and she lists a number of places where the trumps had businesses that were the opposite of strong. .. now up to 30 day. one of the things i traced in my book is how this is a
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family business practice. it went from. trump, donald trump's father, to donald trump and now to his adult children who participate in the family business both in-and-out of the white house. be one what you think donald trump will do when he leaves the white house? whether it's a year from now or five years from now. he's had a lifetime in real estate, four to eight years in politics. what you think he'll do when he leaves? >> guest: he's moved to florida. he no longer has residency here in new york. i think it is very hard to predict the future. certainly, one of the things it was really interesting to me is there so many people in the new york real estate world, big and important people, the first thing they wanted me to it understand as they wanted me to it know, and this is their words, donald trump is not one of us.
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they felt he was not part of the civic real estate society. but they also put that his practices were so far off the scale. now i want to be clear, new york real estate is a shady business. >> host: sure be to donald trump is in a category by himself. that is what people wanted me to it understand in the real estate industry in new york. he is an outlier in his practices as was his father was an outlier in his business practices. the nerd time says they had outright fraud. this is not something you here every day about a real estate family in new york. >> host: right, what about yvonne can jared. they have been living there for three or four years. they have been working in the white house and. they both have businesses in new york. what you think their aspirations are in the future? >> guest: all we know is what they say.
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ivonne kisses her is looking at washington right now. jared is the white house person who is overseeing the campaign. i think it is really important to just pause for a moment on jared kershner. when you think about the people he has outlasted, jim calley, steve bannon, just go on and on jeff sessions, so many officials have come and gone and jared kushner, not even 40 years old is one of the most powerful people on earth. so it's hard to know what they would want to do next. only that they want to say their focus is on washington and washington business. ivonne could trump speaks a lot about the economy. she speaks a lot about women and families. she speaks in a way that someone wanting to have future
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in the political career would speak. having said that i don't know what that means. i tried very hard to get interviews with ivanka tromp and jared kershner for the book. so i could not ask them not myself. if i ever had the opportunity, i would be interested to know how they see their future. >> host: i was wondering if you knew from either of them before they got into politics? >> from before they got into politics, sort of glancing lay. so they were parts of worlds that i covered. and i worked at the new york observer for jared kershner was working at the same place there's a gap from when i left and he came. there are many, many people that we know in common. in in the course of covering i covered government politics they were sort of on the edges of that. so i would come across them,
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but really when i began to pay much closer attention to it jared kushner and ivanka trump and it was red but this time a year in 2016. i was in council bluffs iowa i think is the day before the first contest in 2016. donald was speaking and he introduces his daughter in volga, which was not a surprise. he introduces his son-in-law jared kushner. i was really surprised to see jared kushner on the national stage with his father-in-law. because he had been behind the scenes person and a newspaper publisher so he was not someone to get on the stage with a presidential candidate. and that is the point at which i really began to be interested in the role that jared kushner and ivanka trump played in his campaign and ultimately in the white house. >> host: mr. trumbull be in
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the office for either another one euro five years. when he does leave the office was likelihood he could be charged with crimes with his business and conduct in the private sector? does b-2 i have been covering the court cases addressing this issue and one of them is where tromp has sued the district attorney and says he cannot be investigated as long as he is president for any business practices that might run a foul of the law. and the business attorney said one of the big problems of that is the statute of limitations. some of them were committed in 2011, or perhaps 2010, and the clock and run out on them. so it is entirely possible that for some of these things, the clock runs out. if president trump is reelected, that will certainly run out on these things. however, that case is going to the supreme court.
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and it is possible that the supreme court may decide the president cannot be investigated. that is a startling conclusion, even more significant than the impeachment inquiry which is the political trial. because this means that no law enforcement agent or agency, anywhere in the country could even investigate a sitting president so long as that person is in office. and that would fundamentally change our understanding of the roles of checks and balances, our government system. that's one of the recycled my book american overgaard, because the conclusion -- i'm a very fact-based reporter and i want to understand not on conjecture but documents and interviews and what there is. and an inescapable conclusion for me is our government is becoming more and more
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influenced by the very wealthy, including the trumps and their associates. and they are being able to control more of the system and are called left to accounts and these court cases are kind of the final or very significant steppingstone on that. if we -- if the supreme court rules that the president cannot be investigated on anything, we do have a situation where a president is given permission to act in an oligarchic away. one judge even said a president cannot be a king. the president is not a king. so it is on the mind of the judiciary but is unsettled right now. we will find out when this year supreme court term ends in june, what is going to become of those cases. it will really affect the nature of our democracy if it remains a something recognizable in something what we see now. or whether we have a situation where there is no accountability. one of the things it is very interesting to me that came up in the impeachment here
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series. the u.s. diplomats were talking about one of the goals of u.s. foreign policy, bipartisan goals, was to set up a system of government in ukraine were government officials could be held to account. because in people cannot be held to accounts at leads to corruption. and that was bipartisan policy. so while our policies are arguing ukraine needs more accountability next government, our president is arguing he needs less. speedy one amazing, and we have those rulings on presidential power whether the president can be investigated and charged with crimes. that would apply to presidents the future of either party. >> guest: exactly.
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and one of the things i asked myself because we know president trump has at this point has appointed two supreme court justices. and we understand for example brett kavanaugh from his record, is a great believer in presidential power as it is neil. and we know the fact that they took these cases. they took these cases about consequences for the president despite the fact that the circuit courts -- the d.c. circuit and the second court of appeals were unambiguous in their findings as were the judges. they were no waves to the president be able to act with impunity. but the supreme court took the cases anyway even though there was no disagreements. that indicates they are going to be considering this. whether you can call the president to accounts. i think it's something that has been a little bit lost in the impeachment trial but i think it is going to be a position moving forward. >> host: your book has done an excellent job of explaining along the chronology of trump's life the policy changes in court cases that is
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made wealthy americans much wealthier today and wealthy americans much more powerful today. i know you make some comparisons between now and the gilded age when there is a previous generation worth of magnates who had incredible power over the economy and politics. do you think we are in a new sort of gilded age? and if that's true will we have more sort of the business titans who become presidents or senators et cetera? >> guest: what happened in a gilded age, was a wealth grew very rapidly. there was no system of taxation. there is a very anti- democratic system of laws. so wealthy monopolist, there's a famous cartoon of these rotund political figures, oil, carton cartel walking into the senate gallery. while the people's interest is barred. and that was symbolic of the
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gilded age. there's people with this great wealth could walk right into the halls of government and go they wanted. and there was pushback. president teddy roosevelt came in, president franklin rest roosevelt was a big advocate of taxation. there were rules to make senate elections and other elections more democratic. of course women got the right to vote. there's all kinds of things that happened to spread democracy and reduce wealth inequality. what is happened in the last 50 years of our history the opposite. so since reagan became elected in 1991 and began cutting taxes. our taxes have become much much lower. and at the same time it has become easier and easier and easier for money to get into elections. one of the things i didn't course of reporting my book was go back and watch president obama's state of the union speech after he -- after
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the case. this is a case in which it was essentially decided there could be basically an unlimited flow of corporate money into elections. and president obama said this is going to open the floodgates to foreign influence in elections. and that really caught me short. because i hadn't realized that was a discussion then. but when you make it so easy for dark money to come into campaigns -- campaign contributions used to be so low and there weren't all of these fancy evasive mechanisms. but each of these successes, court decisions god has made a harder and harder for people like you and me to it track what's going on. you can spend a whole year trying to figure out who won limited liability company gave to one political action group. to try to figure out who is giving to elections. bob muller for example found ukrainians had illegally tried to purchase tickets to trumps
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inaugural. there is an indictment in new york of two associates of rudy giuliani for funneling foreign money into elections. so it is happening. it's happening as a ruling of court decisions making it easier and easier. it is also happening when donald trump is in the white house who has spent his entire career trying to get around campaign finance laws with the understanding i'm his perspective, that his money buys him power. and he has said as much. in the 2016 campaign he said i give to them, when i call them two years later, three years later, they are there for me. >> host: obviously president trump ran a campaign based on being a businessman. and you as much as anyone have detailed falsities he has made about his own wealth, about his success, the crossover crimes he has committed and settlements he's had to make over his career. but he said he was big on tremendous economic growth in
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america and the economy has really been strong the entire time he has been president. in terms of unemployment, stock markets and other metrics paired how much credit should the president gave her the state of the economy right now? >> guest: when the economy is going well, it always looks positively to the president. i think the important indicator in terms of broad historical terms or what the economy says us to look at wealth inequality. you have some people doing very, very well, but if you have a situation where you have vast inequality, then you have such a strain on the economic system that it is not sustainable. so i think it is a hard question to answer. you have looked at president trump's business practices, i have, a lot of journalists have. bringing those into the white house it doesn't mean what people thought it meant when they elected him. i think people thought oh if you bring a businessman in the white house you're going to
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get efficient management. instead, what we have seen is conflicts of interest, lies, misrepresentation, financial shenanigans, you see a situation where as you know, so many people feel they have to go, stay in his hotel, the attorney general booked ballroom there for a party. foreign leaders show up there because they understand that trump is a transactional president he will look favorably upon them if they gave money. that is the business of the president has brought to the white house. not a sense of efficient management, getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. that was the mitt romney argument. i will bring efficiency to the white house. what trump is brought is something else entirely. >> host: i am thinking both of the systems america has created two entrepreneurs and businesses create wealth, you outlined it very well.
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also the various rule breaking that trump has obviously -- the rules he has broken during his career. he and jared kushner they were born into wealthy families. they have talents and have broken rules in certain cases also. how much of their power, success, and wealth should we attribute to their own talents and their own efforts? and how much should we attribute to the fact that it's very easy to become wealthy in this country if you start wealthy? >> guest: one of the things i really want to talk about in my book was this very issue of intergenerational transfer of wealth. the successful generations of the truck family and the kirsch kershner family and the quasi- legal schemes to not pay taxes. that means the next generation just becomes richer and richer and richer with the snowball effect. there is an economic study
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that was done what happens with the very rich. it begins in 1981 which was the year that gerry kushner and ivanka trump were born. it sort of looks like the right-hand half of the u. so the line on the chart just shoots upward, that is how what's happening with the rich and the very wealthy and the people like those families get wealthier and wealthier. very, very fast. and it's impossible to answer the question that you ask because the amounts of money transferred from one generation to the next with increasingly unfettered ability to flow, makes it -- itself floods out the data point you can even answer that. at the end of the story was always said about the story is the tax cuts in 2017 which cut taxes even more.
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we know the new york times just did a recent analysis where they said not only was -- were hundreds of billions of dollars lost from that tax bill and governo government revenue, but the deficit this year in 2020 is going to cross $1 trillion. so we see a situation where the wealthy are able to hold onto more of their wealth. and the government is getting much much less in revenues as a result of these broad historical trends of the less and less taxation. more influence of money and politics and topped off by the tax cuts of 2017. >> host: one of my favorite scenes in the book and most intimate scenes is when you aren't court and michael cohen of course was president trump's personal lawyer, he
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was sort his fixer during his career. he was go solve problems, threaten people they needed to, pay people off. he paid off stormy daniels to make sure that story did not become public. and he is in prison right now. and you are in court with a family member can revisit his wife or his sister speak to it was his daughter. >> host: she is crying there in front of you and the way you wrote it i thought you had sympathy for michael cohen even though he created several crimes and campaign fraud how do you feel about michael cohen? >> guest: i think we were speaking a low bit earlier in regards to the kushner family it's due look at people's paper cut out dolls. i wanted to look at real human characters that had failures
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and good points and bad points and flaws. me and my colleagues at the trump ink podcast did very hard-hitting reporting on michael cohen before he was indicted. we were out in the field the day michael cohen's office in the home were rated by the fbi. and i covered the trajectory of his court cases. what became interesting to me, is over the course of those court cases and also all of the testimony he gave. the public testimony he gave, the closed or tested testimony he gave. when he talked about the situation that was very familiar to me. where he went to work for donald trump and it felt so thrilling and so exciting. and like anything could happen, and then donald trump absent across a line. and he said okay, and once you cross the line donald trump
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asking to cross another line. so there is even more, farther off the edge. so michael cohen would do that too. then he didn't sometimes he could not go back. and that is a situation that a number of people that i have reported on and spoke to over the years say. that they were enthralled with donald trump than they crossed the lines for him. and then they were stuck. never able to say no. what happened with michael cohen is that finally, obviously he did plead guilty. he did give some information to prosecutors about his former boss. and donald trump turned on him. stopped paying for his lawyers, called michael cohen a rat, and michael cullen went into the courtroom and said i did this crime, but i did this crime to help the political campaign of someone else. and what he said and i am paraphrasing now, was why isn't that person also being called into account? and he gets up in court on this day in december, and he
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starts to say the judge i am sorry. and his daughter, who is sitting just feet from me in the courthouse just starts to sob. i look over at her, she's not that much older than my own daughter. and i handed her a packet of tissues. and she sort of looks at it, and she wipes her eyes, and michael cohen can hear her crying and he starts to sob practically. >> host: it's a very sad say no matter what your politics are it is very sad scene. >> guest: says i don't want to be the veteran and his history. i think it's something we see over and over and over again with people who have been very close to donald trump and would do anything for donald trump. michael cohen said he would take a bullet for donald trump. but when they veer from that path or before they veer from that path donald trump for some reason rejects them and lets them faces the consequences. it's something we have seen over and over again in donald trump's career.
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>> host: with five minutes or so i've a couple more questions. you and i both spend a lot of time reporting on conflict of interest and concerns about conflicts of interest between president trump's company and his administration the government. which he and his family said they would keep very separate when they were elected. but now he travels to his properties all the time and there's problems with this hotel, there court cases about all this. but the president donates presidential salary, and it still remains unclear to me whether the president is actually making more money because he is president or is making less money while he is president. what you think about that? >> guest: i agree with you. i think it's sort of a mystery and it's an uncomfortable mystery. i would like to know if the president is personally profiting from presidency. but what i think is clear to all of us, is that the
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president has brought in a certain way of being. where he feels it is perfectly fine for him to use government resources for his business. and were seemingly it's perfectly fine for his associates use government resources for their businesses. and in some ways we unraveled the root of this ukraine scandal that's where it starts to. people with business interests, people's desire to make money intersecting with an off the books government and all kinds of murky ways. it is clear that trump has wholesale brought that approach to the white house and has permeated the government. so i think it is a question about him shaping our entire style of government that has a way to help expand his power. and that is certainly happening even when his personal bottom-line may not be affected. it's his power that he has
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been able to enhance using these techniques in the white house. i think that is the ball we need to keep her eye on. >> host: for when the trumps are not so when donald trump is not the president, whenever that is, do you think that if the trump family and the kushner family all return to new york with a be welcomed back in some way? obviously their friends are very wealthy well-to-do people like themselves. will they come back to new york and go back to their life beforehand? or will they have to live in red state america, florida or somewhere like that? >> guest: they did change the residency to florida so there is that. this is what is clear. it is clear that donald trump gets a lot of criticism in new york in the new york society for his policies and his attic
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style presidency. that is very loud. he is also in the state broadly among the entire population of the state, is not that popular of a president even though he's popular in other parts of the country. i covered political campaigns, i covered six national political campaigns. when you covered political campaign on ebay want you to say in your coverages who's gonna win, what's gonna happen? every story is a way to answer that question but hedging your bets. and after the election of 2016, i get out of the prediction business. because i realize we did not understand the forces at play. their summary things happening in the election we did not know. and i feel it is very hard to predict political futures, so i'm going to take a pass on answering that question.
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>> host: i am interested -- you said earlier today that you felt an obligation to write this book. and obviously we are living in an incredibly polarized time in america politically. we have a president who is relentlessly telling people not to believe what the press writes about him and says about him on the radio, et cetera. do you ever -- you touched on this a little bit at the end your book, you say more about why do you think it was worth it to write this? because it seems like so many americans have decided what they think about donald trump are red whether they like him are not like him. it sometimes feels like new information is not -- doesn't really affect anything. he goes into the ether on if he doesn't like it he tries to destroy it. if he does like it then he promotes it. do you think there is a chance that your book and reporting about the president could have some difference in the election or going forward?
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>> guest: my book -- i hope my book is read not just now, but next year, and ten years from now. because i don't mean to just tell story of multigenerational story about these two families, which i do, but i also tell story about america and how we got to this point. and really try to lay that out. with all of its ups and downs and complexities, people need to understand this country. they need to understand how it works, they need to understand where we came from. there's a lot of material out there that looks at what is happening specifically in the white house now. that's not what this book is. this book is to explain and trace the trajectory of american democracy. and i hope that is something that people can read and think about and discuss and debate for years. no matter what your political
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parties are. it is not meant to be an aggregation of facts that people can sort of put into their political machines. it's meant to tell story about us in our times. i have enough faith in our country otherwise i would just lie down and not do anything. i believe there people that one stats and they want to understand what is going on. and the documenting itself and saying we are going to tell you what's happening, we are guinness say the truth despite the fact that people are claiming there is no truth. we still believe in that. we still believe in journalism. we still believe in evidence. and we are going to continue to practice. and in upholding that standard, i believe we are really doing something very, very important in this democracy. the press is the only profession listed in the constitution so i feel particular obligation to do the right thing by our country.
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>> host: i avoid a lot of political books, a lot of them about president trump in particular have been overwrought and not much facts. your book is full of them, thank you so much for writing it and for the conversation. >> guest: thank you it's really, really great to have a chance to talk to you in this way, keep up the good work yourself. >> host: thank you. >> this program is available as a podcast. all "after words" programs can be viewed on our website at book tb.org. >> my name is jonathan and my family owns the betsy. and behalf of the miami beach chamber of commerce and of course our dear friends at books and books. welcome to this book talk by. hochberg. first, i have my copy already, you will see there's a stack

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