Trump inauguration organization committee sued for alleged corruption

UNTV News   •   January 23, 2020   •   272

President Donald Trump (l) takes the oath of office at his inauguration ceremony in Washington DC on Jan. 20, 2017. EFE-EPA/Justin Lane/File/Summary EPA Photos of the Year January 2017

Washington – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine on Wednesday sued the nonprofit committee designated by President Donald Trump to organize his January 2017 inauguration and the businesses overseeing Trump International Hotel in Washington, alleging that the committee coordinated with the mogul’s family members to overpay for event space in a way that enriched the Trumps.

The lawsuit contends that the Presidential Inaugural Committee coordinated with the Trump family to pay $1.03 million to rent space in the hotel, which included a dance hall and meeting rooms, a price far above the going market rate normally charged by the hotel.

Moreover, the text of the complaint states that the inaugural committee knew it was paying prices far above the market rate and did not consider other less expensive alternatives and even paid for hotel space on days on which no events were scheduled.

The DC Attorney General’s Office found that Rick Gates, who was the No. 2 official on Trump’s 2016 campaign committee, personally dealt with the Trump hotel as vice president for the inaugural committee to rent space for the inaugural celebration.

According to the suit, a member of the committee, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, tasked with planning the event, expressed her concern over the high price the Trump hotel asked to the president’s oldest child Ivanka Trump and to Gates.

The AG’s Office also says that the committee allegedly used nonprofit funds to stage a private party for the Trump family that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” said Racine in a statement regarding the lawsuit. “In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business.”

In his statement, Racine notes that the presidential inaugural committee planned and organized assorted activities to celebrate Trump’s ascension to the presidency.

The committee was headed by Thomas Barrack, a real estate investor friend of Trump’s, and other associates of the president such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, oil businessman Harold Hamm and coal company CEO Joseph Craft were also on it.

Last December, Gates was sentenced to 45 days in prison and three years probation for fraud and for lying to investigators after finally admitting that he had helped Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort hide in foreign bank accounts $75 million obtained for consulting work for Ukrainian politicians.

Trump’s hotel – which he has often visited as president – is just a few block away from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

The Trump Organization has called the lawsuit’s claims completely false, asserting that the case is just a “PR stunt.”

“The AG’s claims are false, intentionally misleading and riddled with inaccuracies,” a Trump Hotels spokesperson said in a statement provided to CBS News. “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.” EFE-EPA

Trump says he’s considering canceling domestic flights to coronavirus hot spots

UNTV News   •   April 2, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (April 1) he was considering a plan to halt flights to U.S. coronavirus hot spots as the United States struggles to contain a pandemic projected to kill at least 100,000 people.

“We are thinking about hotspots where you go from spot to spot – both hot – and we’ll let you know fairly soon,” he said.

Such a plan might conceivably shut down traffic at airports in hard-hit New York, New Orleans, and Detroit.

Domestic flights have already greatly reduced as demand has fallen in wake of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Trump and physicians advising him said between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the United States are likely to die from the virus in the coming weeks even if Americans adhere closely to stay-at-home guidelines for April. (Reuters)

(Production: Vanessa Johnston)

Trump extends national COVID-19 guidelines to April 30

UNTV News   •   March 30, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will extend the guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus to April 30, from his original target of Easter on April 12. Trump added that deaths from the coronavirus could peak around Easter.

U.S. President Donald Trump also called on Congress Sunday (March 29), to restore the full tax deduction for meals and entertainment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of a wide-ranging 2017 tax reform measure, Congress eliminated the corporate tax deduction for entertainment expenses, but taxpayers were allowed to continue to deduct 50% of the cost of client business meals. Trump said he wanted to restore that tax deduction “so companies can send people to restaurants.”

In a long and wide-ranging news conference focused on his administration’s response to COVID-19, President Trump questioned the increasing need for masks, urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to look into hospitals requesting hundreds of thousands of masks during the pandemic.

“How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300-thousand? 10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000, even though this is different? Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out of the back door? he asked. “I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out. Check it out.”

On March 25, Trump issued an executive order to prevent the hoarding of essential medical equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, including ventilators and masks.

The executive order authorized the U.S. government to directly target hoarders, who can be criminally prosecuted.

But with the infection rate rising rapidly, Reuters has documented shortages of vital protective equipment in hospitals in hard-hit New York, where healthcare workers are hiding supplies such as facemasks from colleagues in other departments.

As supply chains break down or delay delivery of vital equipment, nurses say they are locking away or hiding N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and other supplies that are prone to going missing if left unattended for long. (Reuters)

(Production: Vanessa Johnston, Arlene Eiras)

U.S. launches probes as Trump bans hoarding, price gouging to combat coronavirus

UNTV News   •   March 24, 2020

U.S. launches probes as Trump bans hoarding, price gouging to combat coronavirus

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday (March 23) to prevent hoarding and price gouging of crucial medical supplies needed to fight the deadly coronavirus, while Attorney General William Barr announced that the Justice Department has already launched hoarding investigations to carry out the order.

The executive order authorizes the U.S. government to directly target hoarders who may threaten the supply of certain medical supplies that the government has designated as scarce or could be threatened by hoarding or price gauging.

People who accumulate designated supplies beyond levels considered reasonable for personal or business use can be criminally prosecuted.

Barr told reporters at the White House press briefing Monday night that no items have been designated by the government just yet, but investigations into hoarding and price gauging are already underway. (Reuters)

(Production: Vanessa Johnston, Alrene Eiras)

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