The Donald J. Trump Foundation, Explained


Why has President Trump’s charity faced years of legal scrutiny? And what does the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against it mean?

During a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa in January 2016, Mr. Trump presented a check to a veterans group.CreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

On Thursday, the New York State attorney general sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, charging it with “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

The lawsuit follows years of scrutiny of President Trump’s charitable activities and adds to the president’s extensive legal challenges, amid a continuing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

What is the Trump Foundation?

Mr. Trump established the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1987, when he was a New York City real estate mogul, with the stated mission of collecting and maintaining money “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes,” either directly or by donating to other organizations. It is a private, nonprofit corporation. In its most recent I.R.S. filing, reporting as of Dec. 31, 2016, it had approximately $1 million in assets.

Mr. Trump served as the foundation’s president from its start until Jan. 23, 2017, three days after he was inaugurated as president. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also stepped down from her position on the foundation’s board of directors. His sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are still members of the board.

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What does this mean for Mr. Trump?

The suit seeks to bar Mr. Trump from serving on the leadership of any charitable organization operating in New York for 10 years, and to bar his eldest children, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, for one year.

If successful, it would force Mr. Trump and the three children to pay $2.8 million in restitution and damages. It would also force Mr. Trump to repay the foundation for up to double the amount of benefits he obtained after July 1, 2014 — a sum of millions. And it would dissolve the Trump foundation and require it to cooperate with the attorney general’s office in disbursing any remaining funds it possesses.

(Mr. Trump had already announced his intention to dissolve the foundation, and he has already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016.)

Giuliani May Have Exposed Trump to New Legal and Political Perils


By the end of the day, the president and his advisers had done little to clarify the confusion that Mr. Giuliani had set in motion a night earlier.

Mr. Giuliani did not consult every member of the president’s legal team, or the network of lawyers around Washington whose clients have been entangled in Mr. Trump’s legal disputes, according to several people close to the team. Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer hired by Mr. Trump on Wednesday, was not involved in Mr. Giuliani’s plans to reveal the payments to Mr. Cohen during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, one of the people said.

The abrupt disclosure — which even caught Mr. Hannity, a confidant of the president’s, by surprise — set off a flurry of calls between Mr. Trump’s lawyers as they sought to determine whether Mr. Giuliani meant to reveal the president’s reimbursement. Witnesses and lawyers around Washington scoured transcripts, watched television clips and called each other in an effort to grasp the consequences of what Mr. Giuliani had said.

The president’s other lawyers ultimately determined that Mr. Giuliani had consulted with Mr. Trump, people close to them said, but were left speechless about why he decided to make the disclosure in such a high-profile way and without any strategy to handle the fallout.

Mr. Giuliani recognized the situation was problematic, two people close to him said, because Mr. Trump had previously said on Air Force One that he was unaware of the hush payments to Stephanie Clifford, the actress who performs as Stormy Daniels. However, Mr. Trump and his aides see lying to or misleading the news media as far less troublesome than lying to investigators, they said.

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Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, recently joined Mr. Trump’s legal team.

Credit
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Even some of the president’s advisers said they were skeptical of Mr. Giuliani’s statements that Mr. Cohen entered into a settlement, made payments to a pornographic film actress and was reimbursed by the president all without Mr. Trump’s knowing why.

Mr. Giuliani’s disclosure is a sign of how Mr. Trump’s reshuffled legal team — which now includes a highly paid Washington lawyer, a famous former mayor, a constitutional lawyer who specializes in religious cases and former federal prosecutors — will function in the coming weeks as they sort out who takes the lead on representing the president.

Mr. Giuliani has said he is the lead lawyer dealing with the special counsel’s investigation in Washington. But his statements on Wednesday night related to the continuing investigation in New York that is examining the conduct of Mr. Cohen. People close to the president are concerned that Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani may create more problems for themselves if they consult only with each other and leave out the other lawyers who may know more about the nuances of the cases.

Mr. Trump faces a two-front battle with the Justice Department: one investigation in New York into Mr. Cohen and the special counsel investigation in Washington.

Whoever runs the president’s legal defenses will almost certainly adopt a more aggressive strategy than the previous team, which was led by the Washington lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb.

Despite the president’s desire to take on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the Justice Department, Mr. Dowd and Mr. Cobb persuaded Mr. Trump to buy into their strategy of cooperation. The more helpful the president was, Mr. Dowd and Mr. Cobb told him last year, the more likely the investigation would conclude by year’s end.

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Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, paid $130,000 in hush money to Ms. Clifford, who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Credit
Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Instead, the investigation has intensified, and the president has concluded that approach was a mistake, according to people close to him. Convinced that the investigation is a growing threat to his presidency, he has resorted to his initial inclination to fight.

Mr. Trump appears to hope that Mr. Giuliani, a like-minded political street fighter from New York, will aid his combative approach. Mr. Giuliani’s comments on Wednesday and Thursday were an attempt to do just that.

His aggression carried risks. Besides revealing that the president had reimbursed Mr. Cohen, Mr. Giuliani appeared to admit that the payment to Ms. Clifford just before Election Day in 2016 was made because of concerns about the coming vote. That could be used to argue that it was an illegal campaign contribution.

“Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Giuliani said on the Fox News program “Fox & Friends.” “Cohen didn’t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”

Violating campaign finance laws can be serious. John Edwards, a former Democratic senator and presidential hopeful, was charged with corruption for his role in trying to hide details of his affair with a videographer during his 2008 bid for the White House. Mr. Edwards’s trial ended in an acquittal on one count with the jury unable to reach a verdict on five others.

Mr. Giuliani’s comments also raised fresh questions about the president’s relationship with Mr. Cohen. As Mr. Giuliani told it, Mr. Cohen entered into a legal agreement with Ms. Clifford and paid her without Mr. Trump’s knowledge. Mr. Giuliani described that as commonplace, saying he performed similar services for his own clients. But legal ethics experts said such an arrangement was highly unusual and would only expose Mr. Cohen to new questions.

The Trump Team’s Conflicting Statements About the Payment to Stormy Daniels

From complete denial to acknowledging involvement, what President Trump and his lawyers said about the $130,000 paid to the pornographic film actress.


Lawyers are required to keep their clients fully informed of their activities and are generally prohibited from advancing money to or on behalf of their clients, said Deborah L. Rhode, a scholar on legal ethics at Stanford Law School. “This is a guy who says he’ll take a bullet for the president,” she said. “And what they’re giving him is the legal ethics equivalent of a bullet.”

“Giuliani thinks he’s serving President Trump’s interest,” she said. “President Trump’s interest is not the same as Michael Cohen’s interest.”

In his tweets on Thursday, Mr. Trump contradicted his earlier statements that he knew of no payment to Ms. Clifford. Mr. Trump said he paid a monthly retainer to Mr. Cohen and suggested that the payment to the actress could not be considered a campaign contribution.

Government watchdog groups warned that willfully violating the financial disclosure laws can be punished by a fine of up to $50,000 and a year in prison. Although federal officials who lie on the forms are also typically charged with other, more serious offenses such as bribery or fraud, more than 20 officials or former officials have been charged in the past 12 years with making false statements to federal officials, a felony offense. An Environmental Protection Agency official who failed to report a source of income on the form, for instance, was convicted and sentenced to probation.

“Mr. Giuliani did his client no favors,” said Norman L. Eisen, the chairman of the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Mr. Cohen had worked for Mr. Trump for a decade and has said he would “take a bullet” for him. Mr. Trump, however, treated Mr. Cohen poorly over the years, people familiar with their relationship have said.

Ms. Clifford is suing Mr. Cohen to try to be released from the nondisclosure agreement. And Mr. Cohen is under federal investigation into possible bank fraud, raising concerns in the president’s inner circle that Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer will cooperate with the government. Federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office and home last month and seized documents that included information about payments to Ms. Clifford.

Mr. Cohen recently invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit.

Continue reading the main story

The Fight for Wisconsin Is On as Outside Money Pours Into Senate Race


The big spending doesn’t just signal that each party sees the Senate seat as winnable. It’s also a measure of intensity on both sides to prevail in Wisconsin after Donald J. Trump shocked Democrats in 2016 by being the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the state since 1984. National Democrats are bent on winning it back in 2020 — and getting Ms. Baldwin re-elected is a crucial step toward that goal.

The fight may become the most expensive Wisconsin Senate race ever: An analysis by the state Democratic Party found that nearly $10 million in advertising had already aired or been purchased by outside groups against Ms. Baldwin or in favor of Mr. Nicholson. (Mr. Nicholson’s camp put the number at nearly $9 million.) At least another $3.7 million in advertising is underway sponsored by outside groups in favor of Ms. Baldwin.

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Donations and ads by Republicans from outside Wisconsin have propelled the Senate candidacy of Kevin Nicholson, who has never run for public office.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

The advertising by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC — both heavily financed by the hard-right industrialist Richard Uihlein — has propelled the first-time candidacy of Mr. Nicholson, and underscores the influential role that outside conservative PACs play in this politically polarized state. Organizations funded by Mr. Uihlein and the billionaire Koch brothers have devoted millions to assuring continued Republican control of the Senate, and many conservatives view Ms. Baldwin, 56, as a beatable first-term senator who symbolizes the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.

“Tammy Baldwin is very vulnerable,” said Brad Courtney, the state’s Republican chairman, calling her one of the Senate’s most liberal members. “There’s going to be lots of money coming into Wisconsin.”

Even in this rural area of small farms, nearly two hours from Milwaukee, it’s hard to avoid the drumbeat of ads, which began well before the traditional start of campaign season.

“I hear a lot of stuff on the radio,” said Gary Buchholz, a soil technician who was part of the crowd at J & J Fireball Lanes, a local bowling alley, and plans to vote for Ms. Baldwin. “I don’t like the money that comes in from out of state, huge amounts of money trying to influence Wisconsin elections.”

Partly to counter the advertising, an energized Democratic base is organizing early, determined to retain the Senate seat held by their party since 1957, when William Proxmire was elected to the unexpired term of Joseph McCarthy, who had died in office. Yet Wisconsin has become a Republican stronghold: The state not only voted for Mr. Trump, but has also become a laboratory for conservative policy ideas under its two-term governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican-controlled legislature.

In November, Ms. Baldwin is expected to face either Mr. Nicholson or Leah Vukmir, a conservative state senator favored by the state’s Republican establishment. Ms. Vukmir, 59, has also benefited from political action committee spending, with a $935,000 ad buy by a group called Wisconsin Next PAC, funded partly by the Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks. Ms. Vukmir has also received scores of endorsements from state Republicans, including the support of Reince Priebus, a Wisconsinite who served as White House chief of staff.

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Leah Vukmir, a conservative Wisconsin state senator, is favored by many establishment Republicans in the party’s primary for Senate in August.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Democrats privately expressed concern that the negative advertising has whittled away at Ms. Baldwin’s support. A March poll by Marquette Law School revealed that her approval rating was a mere 37 percent.

Fearing a reprise of the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race — when outside groups targeted the Democratic candidate, Russ Feingold, who lost even though he had held a lead two months before the election in a Marquette poll over the incumbent Republican, Senator Ron Johnson — Ms. Baldwin’s campaign has already dug into her formidable campaign chest. Her campaign said it planned to have 60 field organizers in place statewide by the end of next month.

Ms. Baldwin’s campaign also said it had released television advertising earlier than any incumbent Senate Democrat nationally, including one last week emphasizing her support for Wisconsin’s cheese industry. Dairy farms have been a staple of rural areas of Wisconsin like Portage, the county seat of Columbia County, one of 23 Wisconsin counties carried by Mr. Trump that President Barack Obama had won in 2012. The industry has been hard-hit statewide, particularly in Columbia County.

“We’re in a crisis situation, losing a farm a day,” said Sarah Lloyd, whose family milks 350 cows and who supports Ms. Baldwin, partly because of her efforts to bolster a milk price federal insurance program.

Cheesy Video by Tammy Baldwin

Ms. Lloyd, who previously ran for Congress, was among about 100 Democrats who braved a harsh April snowstorm to attend the party’s annual county dinner at a motel in this town of about 11,000 residents. Despite the weather, organizers said the meeting was the second-biggest turnout of Democrats ever in Columbia County.

“Hillary took Wisconsin for granted,” said Ms. Lloyd, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”

The next day, with snow still falling, a hardy group of about 150 Republicans turned out for a Lincoln-Reagan Day luncheon in Mequon, an affluent and reliably Republican suburb of Milwaukee.

Photo

Ms. Baldwin has emerged as the top target for many national Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Donors from outside the state are spending twice as much money on the race so far than any other Senate contest this year.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Addressing the crowd at the River Club of Mequon, in a ballroom with a panoramic golf course view, State Representative Jim Ott shared his concerns about a “blue wave” in November, describing how “40 angry Democrats” had taken over his normally staid town hall meeting.

The results of two recent Wisconsin elections in which outside spending was a factor have added to Republican worries.

In a January special election upset, a local medical examiner, a Democrat, easily defeated a Republican state legislator for a State Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years. In that race, the Republican got help from radio and digital advertising by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group. Then, in April, in a statewide Supreme Court election, a liberal judge from Milwaukee County defeated a county circuit judge backed by conservatives. The winner in that race received a boost from digital ads paid for by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization headed by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

In many ways, the dynamics in Wisconsin mirror what’s happening nationally within the Republican Party, with deeply conservative newcomers allying with outside donors to challenge more traditional Republicans.

The insurgent candidacy of Mr. Nicholson — a Wisconsin native and Bronze Star recipient who has earned more than $1 million in the past two years as a consultant — appears to have been shaped in large part by the money of Mr. Uihlein, the founder of a shipping and industrial supply company.

Long a power broker in Illinois and Wisconsin political circles, Mr. Uihlein has taken a more aggressive national approach this year, spending $20 million to back conservatives in races across the country. In March of last year, a new Uihlein-backed PAC, Solutions for Wisconsin, announced that Mr. Uihlein had contributed $2 million to support a Senate run by Mr. Nicholson. In all, according to a recent Democratic Party analysis, spending by Uihlein-funded groups in favor of Mr. Nicholson and against Ms. Baldwin exceeds $5.4 million. Mr. Uihlein did not respond to a request for an interview regarding the Wisconsin Senate race.

WI-LIKE REAGAN Video by RestorationPAC

Mr. Nicholson, a telegenic 40-year-old who always seems to have a fresh haircut, said he had begun exploring the idea of a Senate run well before Mr. Trump’s election, seeking support both inside the state and from national donors.

“The coalition is very impressive,” Mr. Nicholson said, reeling off a list of six groups supporting him, including four groups that have received large donations from Mr. Uihlein. “We have a lot of groups stepping in to say, ‘We’re going to help you take back that seat.’”

Mr. Nicholson’s political metamorphosis from Democrat to Republican has attracted thinly veiled criticism from some within the party who question his sincerity. Ms. Vukmir, who worked as a registered nurse for many years, told the crowd in Mequon, “I’m 100 percent pro-life and I have always been 100 percent pro-life.”

It was an apparent reference to Mr. Nicholson’s evolved position on abortion. In 2000, while president of the national College Democrats, Mr. Nicholson spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, emphasizing his support for a woman’s right to choose, among other liberal causes.

Mr. Nicholson has given various interviews about his transformation from Democrat to Republican, saying that he departed the 2000 convention disillusioned with the party.

Perhaps illustrating the political polarization of this state, Mr. Nicholson says he hasn’t spoken with his Democratic parents in more than a year, blaming their estrangement on his political choices. “No doubt, obviously for them, it created a lot of frustration and disagreement that I feel the way I do and they made a decision that I think is unfortunate,” Mr. Nicholson said.

His parents are donors to Ms. Baldwin’s campaign.

Continue reading the main story

The Fight for Wisconsin Is On as Outside Money Pours Into Senate Race


The big spending doesn’t just signal that each party sees the Senate seat as winnable. It’s also a measure of intensity on both sides to prevail in Wisconsin after Donald J. Trump shocked Democrats in 2016 by being the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the state since 1984. National Democrats are bent on winning it back in 2020 — and getting Ms. Baldwin re-elected is a crucial step toward that goal.

The fight may become the most expensive Wisconsin Senate race ever: An analysis by the state Democratic Party found that nearly $10 million in advertising had already aired or been purchased by outside groups against Ms. Baldwin or in favor of Mr. Nicholson. (Mr. Nicholson’s camp put the number at nearly $9 million.) At least another $3.7 million in advertising is underway sponsored by outside groups in favor of Ms. Baldwin.

Photo

Donations and ads by Republicans from outside Wisconsin have propelled the Senate candidacy of Kevin Nicholson, who has never run for public office.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

The advertising by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC — both heavily financed by the hard-right industrialist Richard Uihlein — has propelled the first-time candidacy of Mr. Nicholson, and underscores the influential role that outside conservative PACs play in this politically polarized state. Organizations funded by Mr. Uihlein and the billionaire Koch brothers have devoted millions to assuring continued Republican control of the Senate, and many conservatives view Ms. Baldwin, 56, as a beatable first-term senator who symbolizes the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.

“Tammy Baldwin is very vulnerable,” said Brad Courtney, the state’s Republican chairman, calling her one of the Senate’s most liberal members. “There’s going to be lots of money coming into Wisconsin.”

Even in this rural area of small farms, nearly two hours from Milwaukee, it’s hard to avoid the drumbeat of ads, which began well before the traditional start of campaign season.

“I hear a lot of stuff on the radio,” said Gary Buchholz, a soil technician who was part of the crowd at J & J Fireball Lanes, a local bowling alley, and plans to vote for Ms. Baldwin. “I don’t like the money that comes in from out of state, huge amounts of money trying to influence Wisconsin elections.”

Partly to counter the advertising, an energized Democratic base is organizing early, determined to retain the Senate seat held by their party since 1957, when William Proxmire was elected to the unexpired term of Joseph McCarthy, who had died in office. Yet Wisconsin has become a Republican stronghold: The state not only voted for Mr. Trump, but has also become a laboratory for conservative policy ideas under its two-term governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican-controlled legislature.

In November, Ms. Baldwin is expected to face either Mr. Nicholson or Leah Vukmir, a conservative state senator favored by the state’s Republican establishment. Ms. Vukmir, 59, has also benefited from political action committee spending, with a $935,000 ad buy by a group called Wisconsin Next PAC, funded partly by the Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks. Ms. Vukmir has also received scores of endorsements from state Republicans, including the support of Reince Priebus, a Wisconsinite who served as White House chief of staff.

Photo

Leah Vukmir, a conservative Wisconsin state senator, is favored by many establishment Republicans in the party’s primary for Senate in August.

Credit
Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Democrats privately expressed concern that the negative advertising has whittled away at Ms. Baldwin’s support. A March poll by Marquette Law School revealed that her approval rating was a mere 37 percent.

Fearing a reprise of the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race — when outside groups targeted the Democratic candidate, Russ Feingold, who lost even though he had held a lead two months before the election in a Marquette poll over the incumbent Republican, Senator Ron Johnson — Ms. Baldwin’s campaign has already dug into her formidable campaign chest. Her campaign said it planned to have 60 field organizers in place statewide by the end of next month.

Ms. Baldwin’s campaign also said it had released television advertising earlier than any incumbent Senate Democrat nationally, including one last week emphasizing her support for Wisconsin’s cheese industry. Dairy farms have been a staple of rural areas of Wisconsin like Portage, the county seat of Columbia County, one of 23 Wisconsin counties carried by Mr. Trump that President Barack Obama had won in 2012. The industry has been hard-hit statewide, particularly in Columbia County.

“We’re in a crisis situation, losing a farm a day,” said Sarah Lloyd, whose family milks 350 cows and who supports Ms. Baldwin, partly because of her efforts to bolster a milk price federal insurance program.

Cheesy Video by Tammy Baldwin

Ms. Lloyd, who previously ran for Congress, was among about 100 Democrats who braved a harsh April snowstorm to attend the party’s annual county dinner at a motel in this town of about 11,000 residents. Despite the weather, organizers said the meeting was the second-biggest turnout of Democrats ever in Columbia County.

“Hillary took Wisconsin for granted,” said Ms. Lloyd, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”

The next day, with snow still falling, a hardy group of about 150 Republicans turned out for a Lincoln-Reagan Day luncheon in Mequon, an affluent and reliably Republican suburb of Milwaukee.

Photo

Ms. Baldwin has emerged as the top target for many national Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Donors from outside the state are spending twice as much money on the race so far than any other Senate contest this year.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Addressing the crowd at the River Club of Mequon, in a ballroom with a panoramic golf course view, State Representative Jim Ott shared his concerns about a “blue wave” in November, describing how “40 angry Democrats” had taken over his normally staid town hall meeting.

The results of two recent Wisconsin elections in which outside spending was a factor have added to Republican worries.

In a January special election upset, a local medical examiner, a Democrat, easily defeated a Republican state legislator for a State Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years. In that race, the Republican got help from radio and digital advertising by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group. Then, in April, in a statewide Supreme Court election, a liberal judge from Milwaukee County defeated a county circuit judge backed by conservatives. The winner in that race received a boost from digital ads paid for by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization headed by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

In many ways, the dynamics in Wisconsin mirror what’s happening nationally within the Republican Party, with deeply conservative newcomers allying with outside donors to challenge more traditional Republicans.

The insurgent candidacy of Mr. Nicholson — a Wisconsin native and Bronze Star recipient who has earned more than $1 million in the past two years as a consultant — appears to have been shaped in large part by the money of Mr. Uihlein, the founder of a shipping and industrial supply company.

Long a power broker in Illinois and Wisconsin political circles, Mr. Uihlein has taken a more aggressive national approach this year, spending $20 million to back conservatives in races across the country. In March of last year, a new Uihlein-backed PAC, Solutions for Wisconsin, announced that Mr. Uihlein had contributed $2 million to support a Senate run by Mr. Nicholson. In all, according to a recent Democratic Party analysis, spending by Uihlein-funded groups in favor of Mr. Nicholson and against Ms. Baldwin exceeds $5.4 million. Mr. Uihlein did not respond to a request for an interview regarding the Wisconsin Senate race.

WI-LIKE REAGAN Video by RestorationPAC

Mr. Nicholson, a telegenic 40-year-old who always seems to have a fresh haircut, said he had begun exploring the idea of a Senate run well before Mr. Trump’s election, seeking support both inside the state and from national donors.

“The coalition is very impressive,” Mr. Nicholson said, reeling off a list of six groups supporting him, including four groups that have received large donations from Mr. Uihlein. “We have a lot of groups stepping in to say, ‘We’re going to help you take back that seat.’”

Mr. Nicholson’s political metamorphosis from Democrat to Republican has attracted thinly veiled criticism from some within the party who question his sincerity. Ms. Vukmir, who worked as a registered nurse for many years, told the crowd in Mequon, “I’m 100 percent pro-life and I have always been 100 percent pro-life.”

It was an apparent reference to Mr. Nicholson’s evolved position on abortion. In 2000, while president of the national College Democrats, Mr. Nicholson spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, emphasizing his support for a woman’s right to choose, among other liberal causes.

Mr. Nicholson has given various interviews about his transformation from Democrat to Republican, saying that he departed the 2000 convention disillusioned with the party.

Perhaps illustrating the political polarization of this state, Mr. Nicholson says he hasn’t spoken with his Democratic parents in more than a year, blaming their estrangement on his political choices. “No doubt, obviously for them, it created a lot of frustration and disagreement that I feel the way I do and they made a decision that I think is unfortunate,” Mr. Nicholson said.

His parents are donors to Ms. Baldwin’s campaign.

Continue reading the main story

Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s $150,000 Payment for a Trump Appearance


The payment from Mr. Pinchuk “is curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence,” said Marcus S. Owens, a former head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. He called the donation “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”

Mr. Cohen did not respond to a request for comment. Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for the president, did not return several messages seeking comment, nor did a lawyer for the Trump Organization. When The New York Times revealed the existence of the subpoena in March, Mr. Trump’s associates played it down as a routine court order to ensure the Trump Organization had handed over all the documents Mr. Mueller had demanded.

Mr. Trump assailed the special counsel investigation on Monday as a “witch hunt,” reaching for a favored insult in response to the seizure of Mr. Cohen’s records. He complained that he had cooperated with the inquiry and viewed the warrant for the raid, obtained by federal prosecutors in Manhattan after a referral from Mr. Mueller, as an extreme step.

“It’s a disgraceful situation,” he told reporters at the White House. “It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. I’ve given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel.”

Mr. Mueller has also examined a deal Mr. Cohen was putting together with Mr. Trump to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Mr. Trump said last summer that Mr. Mueller should not look at his or his family’s finances beyond issues related directly to Russia.

But the special counsel’s investigators have questioned witnesses about whether money from the Persian Gulf had been used to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts and asked for information on Mr. Pinchuk.

The inquiry into the Trump Organization’s payments from foreign nationals underscores how diffuse Mr. Trump’s sources of income have been over many years. And the destination of Mr. Pinchuk’s donation — the Trump Foundation instead of the president’s personal coffers — raised fresh questions about how the president handled the entity he set up to deal with charitable giving.

Mr. Trump’s foundation attracted scrutiny during the 2016 campaign over revelations about his lack of financial support for it and his use of it to pay legal settlements rather than fulfill pledges he made to give to charity. In 2007, Mr. Trump used $20,000 from the foundation to buy a six-foot-tall portrait of himself.

Two weeks after he was elected president, the foundation acknowledged in a tax form that it might have broken federal rules designed to prohibit self-dealing, when charities use their money to benefit principals in their organization.

In the same filing, the foundation disclosed the donation from Mr. Pinchuk for Mr. Trump’s video appearance.

Mr. Pinchuk is the son-in-law of a former president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, who from 1994 to 2005 led a government criticized for corruption, nepotism and the murder of dissident journalists. Mr. Pinchuk, who has been accused by steel makers in the United States of illegally dumping steel on the American market at artificially low prices, drew more scrutiny during the campaign for his ties to Hillary Clinton and her family foundation. He has donated more than $13 million to that organization since 2006.

Mr. Trump’s appearance was broadcast at the Yalta European Strategy conference, which promotes pro-European Union policies for Ukraine. Through his own foundation, Mr. Pinchuk sponsors the affair, which typically attracts well-known former Western leaders like former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and former President Bill Clinton. It was moved to Kiev after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Trump’s video appearance at a conference in Ukraine in 2015.

In a statement, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation said it reached out to Mr. Trump and other world leaders to help “promote strengthened and enduring ties between Ukraine and the West.”

Photo

Mr. Trump appeared via video link at the Yalta European Strategy conference in Kiev in September 2015.

Credit
Volodymyr Petrov/Kyiv Post

The foundation said the donation was “a specific request of Mr. Trump Foundation in September of 2015 when there were multiple candidates for the Republican nomination for president and it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee in 2016.”

At the time, Mr. Trump occupied an unusual position in the presidential race. Though he was the Republican front-runner, the primary field was crowded and he was being vetted or seriously considered by few, if any, in the news media or the Republican establishment.

The event, his first foray into global politics during the campaign, was set up by Doug Schoen, a veteran political consultant and pollster who works with Mr. Pinchuk, according to a person familiar with how the speech was arranged. Mr. Schoen, a frequent Fox News guest, has known Mr. Trump for years and contacted him personally to set it up at the end of August 2015, according to the person.

Mr. Trump did not raise the prospect of any payment. But the next day, Mr. Cohen called Mr. Schoen to solicit the $150,000 as an honorarium, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Schoen, who had gotten to know Mr. Cohen by running into him in the green room at Fox News, dealt with him and not Mr. Trump directly, according to another person briefed on the exchange.

The Kiev talk received little attention, with the scant coverage focused on the awkward nature of Mr. Trump’s delivery. He repeatedly stopped speaking, apparently believing he had to pause to give translators time to relay what he was saying.

“You need not wait for any translation,” Mr. Schoen finally told him.

Mr. Trump continued to pause and said he was having trouble hearing. “The sound system is terrible because there is a huge delay and feedback,” he said.

Mr. Trump used the appearance to criticize President Barack Obama amid deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia over its incursions into Ukraine, which had begun a year earlier. “Our president is not strong and he is not doing what he should be doing for the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump said, using the article before Ukraine, which is seen as insulting by some Ukrainians.

“Putin does not respect our president whatsoever,” he said of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Ukraine, once a part of the Soviet Union, has been at the center of another part of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. He is investigating the consulting work done in Kiev by Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for the country’s pro-Russian former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. Mr. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges of tax fraud and other financial crimes.

He resigned from Mr. Trump’s campaign in August 2016 after handwritten ledgers were made public showing that he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012.

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Economic Scene: Charitable Giving by Corporations Is Also About Getting, a New Study Finds


Think of it like this: One way a company could please Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the judiciary committee and is a member of the committees on finance, agriculture, the budget and taxation, would be to have a corporate political action committee donate directly to his campaign.

But there is another way, one that often slips below the radar of campaign-finance watchdogs. Why not donate to the Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa, where the senator has been an honorary advisory board member?

A corporation could also give to the University of Northern Iowa Foundation, on whose board Mr. Grassley sat as a trustee. Over the period covered by the study, the foundations of AT&T, ConAgra Foods, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Medtronic, Merck, Monsanto, Nationwide Insurance, Principal Financial Group and Rockwell Collins all contributed to one or the other.

Mr. Grassley’s office, when asked about the contributions, had no immediate comment.

That companies might butter up legislators by donating to their pet charities is not new. In 2010, my colleague Eric Lipton documented the contributions to the Joe Baca Foundation and the James E. Clyburn Research and Scholarship Foundation, each affiliated with a Democratic member of Congress.

The researchers who conducted the new study don’t claim that any specific charitable contribution was meant to manipulate the political process. But their work lays bare the extent to which corporate donations may respond to political, rather than charitable, motivations.

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Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, has played a role in two charities tied to his home state that have drawn donations from major corporations.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

It is possible that when the Exelon Corporation donated $25,000 to Representative Joe Barton’s effort to build a Boys and Girls Club in Texas in 2008, it did so because it believed in boys and girls, not because Mr. Barton was the top Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Microsoft’s donation to the Seattle Art Museum may have reflected the company’s support for the arts, not its desire to please Representative Jim McDermott, who was on the museum’s honorary committee. (Mr. McDermott, a Democrat, has since retired.)

The new research uncovers patterns in the aggregate data that suggest corporate donations are often dictated by recipients’ political clout. For instance, a company foundation will donate more to charities in districts where the representatives have gained seats on a committee that is important to the company. And when the member of Congress leaves office, corporate donations to charities in his or her district will dip.

Corporations’ philanthropy often flows to the same areas as their political action committee contributions: Charities in districts where companies favor a particular candidate tend to get more corporate donations.

A charity need not have been founded by a member of Congress to get corporate money. But it helps. A nonprofit is more than four times more likely to receive grants from a corporate foundation if a politician sits on its board. And corporate foundation grants are even more likely if the politician happens to sit on a committee being lobbied by the firm.

The authors of the study examined only a subset of corporate philanthropy, money flowing through corporate foundations that must disclose the recipients of their largess. But the research suggests that the impact of corporate contributions could be much bigger than even critics of campaign-finance practices realize.

The researchers estimate that over 7 percent of charitable donations by corporate foundations are intended to buy political leverage. Applied to $18 billion worth of corporate philanthropy in 2014, that would amount to $1.3 billion, almost four times as much as total political action committee contributions that year and 40 percent more than the corporations’ lobbying expenditures.

There are a couple of lessons here. For those who favor campaign-finance reform, perhaps the most urgent message is that there are many doors that corporate America can use to buy influence. But the research also highlights the way that companies interact with society.

Corporations are likely to tally their foundations’ charity as a decided plus on the dashboard of corporate social responsibility. But politically motivated charitable giving meant to undercut regulations, promote a tax cut or otherwise gain a break could actually reduce total welfare.

As the researchers write, “If corporations’ good deeds (in the form of charitable contributions) cater to politicians’ interests, who as a result put the interests of business ahead of those of voters, the overall welfare effects are ambiguous — society benefits via increased charity, at the potentially high cost of distorting laws and regulation.”

None of this would happen, of course, if politicians weren’t so hungry for corporate money. “Companies wouldn’t do this is it didn’t pay off,” Professor Bombardini told me. “Politicians get good publicity by channeling funds that are valuable to the community. Whatever makes you look good, you want to take credit for it.”

But with a new wave of scandals engulfing some of the nation’s corporate titans, it would behoove them to honestly assess the ultimate purpose of their charity.

Facebook doesn’t have a corporate foundation. But its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has pledged 99 percent of his Facebook shares to advance human potential and promote equality. Perhaps the pledge could include never deploying his company’s financial might to steer the nation’s political process for corporate gain.

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Adult Film Star Says She Stayed Silent on Trump Out of Fear


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Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, told “60 Minutes” that a man threatened her after she agreed to a tell a magazine about an affair with Donald J. Trump. Ms. Clifford said the man told her: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”



Credit
CBS News, via Associated Press

The adult film star Stephanie Clifford told “60 Minutes” that she struck a $130,000 deal for her silence about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump in the final days of the 2016 campaign because she was worried about her safety and that of her young daughter.

That concern, she told “60 Minutes” in an interview for broadcast on Sunday night, was based on a threat she received in 2011 from a man who approached her in Las Vegas. She said the threat came after she sold her story about Mr. Trump for $15,000 to InTouch magazine, which decided not to run it after Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened to sue the publication.

“I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter,” she told the “60 Minutes” correspondent and CNN host Anderson Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And he leaned round and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

So when her previous lawyer came to her with an offer brokered by Mr. Cohen in the final days of the presidential campaign, she said, she agreed because, “I was concerned for my family and their safety.”

Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, was the featured subject of what was the most highly anticipated episode of “60 Minutes” in its recent history, turning her story about a consensual relationship with the president into something of a national event, one replete with viewing parties and “Dark and Stormy” cocktail specials at bars. She is one of two women who have recently filed suit seeking to get out of agreements they said they entered during the last stretch of the 2016 campaign to give up the rights to their stories about what they have said were affairs with Mr. Trump. The other woman, a former Playmate named Karen McDougal, sold her rights to the company that owns The National Enquirer, and spoke to Mr. Cooper on CNN on Thursday.

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Adult Film Star Says She Stayed Silent on Trump Out of Fear


Photo

Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, told “60 Minutes” that a man threatened her after she agreed to a tell a magazine about an affair with Donald J. Trump. Ms. Clifford said the man told her: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”



Credit
CBS News, via Associated Press

The adult film star Stephanie Clifford told “60 Minutes” that she struck a $130,000 deal for her silence about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump in the final days of the 2016 campaign because she was worried about her safety and that of her young daughter.

That concern, she told “60 Minutes” in an interview for broadcast on Sunday night, was based on a threat she received in 2011 from a man who approached her in Las Vegas. She said the threat came after she sold her story about Mr. Trump for $15,000 to InTouch magazine, which decided not to run it after Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened to sue the publication.

“I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter,” she told the “60 Minutes” correspondent and CNN host Anderson Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.’ And he leaned round and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

So when her previous lawyer came to her with an offer brokered by Mr. Cohen in the final days of the presidential campaign, she said, she agreed because, “I was concerned for my family and their safety.”

Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, was the featured subject of what was the most highly anticipated episode of “60 Minutes” in its recent history, turning her story about a consensual relationship with the president into something of a national event, one replete with viewing parties and “Dark and Stormy” cocktail specials at bars. She is one of two women who have recently filed suit seeking to get out of agreements they said they entered during the last stretch of the 2016 campaign to give up the rights to their stories about what they have said were affairs with Mr. Trump. The other woman, a former Playmate named Karen McDougal, sold her rights to the company that owns The National Enquirer, and spoke to Mr. Cooper on CNN on Thursday.

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Using Digital Firm, Brexit Campaigners Skirted Spending Laws, Ex-Employee Says


In response, one of the two Downing Street advisers, Stephen Parkinson, said that Vote Leave had adhered to all relevant laws. Mr. Parkinson also suggested that Mr. Sanni was lashing out because the two had “dated for 18 months, before splitting up — I thought amicably — in September 2017.”

He said he had not spoken to Mr. Sanni as a supervisor from the Vote Leave campaign, but as a friend. “That is the capacity in which I gave Shahmir advice and encouragement, and I can understand if the lines became blurred for him,” Mr. Parkinson said in the statement, “but I am clear that I did not direct the activities of any separate campaign groups.”

The other adviser, Cleo Watson, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Sanni said his relationship with Mr. Parkinson had been a short fling that started after the referendum. In a statement, he said the disclosure of his sexual orientation had endangered his family, who live in Pakistan, and he accused Mr. Parkinson of intimidation.

“I never imagined that he, with the help of No. 10, would choose to tell the world I am gay, in a last, desperate attempt to scare me,” Mr. Sanni said.

His lawyer, Tamsin Allen, said in a statement, “We believe this is the first time a Downing Street official statement has been used to out someone.”

British campaign finance experts said the allegations about Vote Leave underscored the porousness and ineffectiveness of rules on spending around referendums like the vote in 2016 to exit the European Union.

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Shahmir Sanni worked with a small team of young volunteers in what was initially a unit of Vote Leave called BeLeave that tried to craft messages to turn young and liberal people against the European Union.

Credit
Andrew Testa for The New York Times

“They were useless,” said Justin Fisher, a professor of political science at Brunel University London who has studied the regulations for the Electoral Commission, which oversees elections and regulates political finance in Britain.

Multiple organizations, each with its own spending limit, were allowed to campaign in parallel on either side of the referendum issue, and they were allowed to work together in ill-defined ways, allowing donors on either side many ways to sidestep spending limits, Mr. Fisher noted.

The rules “had never really been tested before because we never had a referendum of any consequence before,” Mr. Fisher said, noting that in total the supporters of remaining in the European Union had outspent the advocates of leaving.

Mr. Sanni’s allegations have come to light because of a tangle of connections to an online consulting company with ties to the campaign that elected President Trump — Cambridge Analytica.

Mr. Sanni is friends with Christopher Wylie, a former research director of Cambridge Analytica who has recently provided information to journalists indicating that the company improperly obtained the data of 50 million Facebook users in order to help target voters.

The Vote Leave campaign relied heavily for online ad placement on a Canadian company called AggregateIQ, which according to documents and testimony submitted to the Electoral Commission by Mr. Wylie was a satellite business set up to support Cambridge Analytica.

Public filings also show that Vote Leave provided virtually the entire $990,000 budget of BeLeave — 625,000 pounds — which took the form of additional spending paid directly to AggregateIQ.

As Mr. Wylie was coming forward with his disclosures about Cambridge Analytica, he encouraged his friend Mr. Sanni to come forward with his claims about Vote Leave and BeLeave as well.

Testimony and documents provided by Mr. Wylie in his filing to the Electoral Commission show that AggregateIQ was founded in 2013 in discussion with executives at Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, initially licensed all its software from that company, and for a time received virtually all its income from the company.

In a statement this week, Jeff Silvester, one of the founders of AggregateIQ, said it was a “digital advertising, web and software development company” and “has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”

Mr. Silvester did not address the company’s work for Vote Leave and BeLeave. A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a request for comment.

An initial investigation by the Electoral Commission found nothing improper in the relationship between the two organizations, but a court appeal last fall prompted the commission to reopen its inquiry. Mr. Sanni’s testimony is additional information recently submitted to that ongoing inquiry.

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Darren Grimes, far left, posing for a photograph with Michael Gove, a leading Vote Leave campaigner who is now Britain’s environment secretary, at the campaign’s headquarters in February 2016.

Credit
Pool photo by Stefan Rousseau

He and Mr. Wylie also gave the commission records showing that anyone at Vote Leave continued to have access to the Google Drive used for BeLeave’s strategy, planning and internal discussion after the referendum, on June 23, 2016.

Mr. Sanni graduated from the University of East Anglia at the end of 2015, and began volunteering the next March for the Vote Leave campaign. He worked with a small team of young volunteers in what was then a unit of Vote Leave called BeLeave that tried to craft messages to turn young and liberal people against the European Union by arguing, for example, that it closed doors to the non-European world.

The small BeLeave team initially worked in the same office as Vote Leave and under the oversight of its senior staff, including Mr. Parkinson and Ms. Watson, as did two AggregateIQ employees managing the campaign’s online advertising, Mr. Sanni testified to the commission.

By mid-May, however, with the referendum little more than a month away, the Vote Leave campaign was nearing its spending cap.

At about the same time, the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign instructed their lawyers to draw up a charter for BeLeave to become an independent group. Mr. Sanni was named its secretary and research director while another friend, Darren Grimes, was named its principal and campaign director.

Mr. Sanni told the commission he was surprised to learn that the leaders of Vote Leave had also decided to direct $900,000 to BeLeave, given that it was overseen by two unpaid, inexperienced people: He and Mr. Grimes were then both 22. But then his friend Mr. Grimes explained that virtually all of that money would be paid directly to AggregateIQ for online advertising.

In practice, Mr. Sanni said, nothing changed. The BeLeave staff continued to work inside the Vote Leave office. The senior officials of Vote Leave continued to approve their messages. And the same AggregateIQ workers continued to place BeLeave’s online advertisements while providing the same service to Vote Leave.

“We never saw ourselves as a separate organization from the get-go,” Mr. Sanni said in an interview, echoing his testimony. “We were just volunteers.”

The money paid to AggregateIQ for online advertising produced few results for BeLeave — 1,164 email sign-ups and 1,005 mobile phone numbers for more than $900,000 — leading Mr. Sanni to suspect the money may have gone to promote the larger Vote Leave campaign instead.

He insisted in the interview that the reason he provided testimony to the commission was not about any past feelings for Mr. Parkinson, now at No. 10.

Instead, he said, it was out of concern for Mr. Grimes, the other young volunteer. By making Mr. Grimes the nominal owner of BeLeave, the leaders of Vote Leave had made him a target of critical news coverage and potential legal claims, Mr. Sanni argued. “He is getting thrown to the dogs,” Mr. Sanni said. “Everything I am doing is to protect Darren.”

“I now feel sick about what happened,” Mr. Sanni said in his testimony. The officials of Vote Leave “used two 22-year-olds to cheat in the referendum.”

Mr. Grimes did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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