Archives for the month of: September, 2020

The Washington Post published this fascinating story about Trump’s determination to gain control of his ailing father’s estate, at the expense of his siblings. There are many links to depositions and audio recordings. Please open the story to read and hear.

Donald Trump was facing financial disaster in 1990 when he came up with an audacious plan to exert control of his father’s estate.
His creditors threatened to force him into personal bankruptcy, and his first wife, Ivana, wanted “a billion dollars” in a divorce settlement, Donald Trump said in a deposition. So he sent an accountant and a lawyer to see his father, Fred Trump Sr., who was told he needed to immediately sign a document changing the will according to his son’s wishes, according to depositions from family members.

It was a fragile moment for the senior Trump, who was 85 years old and had built a real estate empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He would soon be diagnosed with cognitive problems, such as being unable to recall things he was told 30 minutes earlier or remember his birth date, according to his medical records, which were included in a related court case.

Now, those records and other sources of information about the episode obtained by The Washington Post reveal the extent of Fred Trump Sr.’s cognitive impairment and how Donald’s effort to change his father’s will tore apart the Trump family, which continues to reverberate today.

The recent release of a tell-all book by the president’s niece Mary L. Trump and the disclosure of secret recordings of her conversations with her aunt reflect the ongoing resentment of some family members toward Donald Trump’s attempt to change his father’s will.

Play episode

Listen to Maryanne Trump Barry tell her niece Mary L. Trump how Donald Trump tried to take over the family estate.

With the election weeks away, the documents and recordings provide more fodder for Mary Trump’s continuing efforts to see her uncle defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, whom she has said she would do “everything in my power” to elect.

Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry was recorded by her niece in January 2019 expressing outrage over her brother’s efforts to change the will as their father’s mental capacity was declining. “Dad was in dementia,” Barry said.

Listen to Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump’s sister, say that their father had dementia when Donald sought to change his will.

Barry said that when she was asked by her father in 1990 to review the proposed changes, she consulted with her husband, John Barry, an attorney familiar with estate law who died in 2000. “I show it to John, and he says, ‘Holy s–t.’ It was basically taking the whole estate and giving it to Donald,” Barry said.

Barry helped convince her father to reject her brother’s effort. As a result, Donald Trump “didn’t talk to me for two years,” Barry said during one of several conversations her niece recorded. Mary Trump recently provided the tapes to The Post.

Listen to Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump’s sister, tell her niece Mary L. Trump that after the fight over the family estate, Donald Trump “didn’t talk to me for two years.”

In other taped conversations, referring to immigration policy and other matters, Barry said President Trump has “no principles” and “you can’t trust him.” In a brief telephone conversation, Barry said, “At this point, I’m not making any comment.”

Underlying the episode about the will was a troubling question: Did Donald Trump try to take advantage of his father at a time when the senior Trump was in the early stages of dementia? In a deposition, Donald said he had no idea his father was suffering from dementia, saying his father was “very, very sharp” at the time. But medical records and accounts by two of his siblings indicate the elder Trump’s cognitive abilities were already declining.

Donald Trump’s deposition from 2000 inheritance case

Q. Do you recall your father suffering from any memory lapses in 1991?
A. No.

Q. Do you recall him being diagnosed as having senile dementia in 1991?

A. No, I don’t.

Q. Do you recall him exhibiting any confusion in 1991?

A. No.

Then, within months of Trump’s effort to amend his father’s will, Fred Trump Sr. was formally diagnosed with “early stages of dementia,” according to medical records that were disclosed in a 2000 court case brought by Mary Trump and others seeking a larger inheritance from the elder Trump’s estate. In that case, Donald Trump and two of his siblings were deposed, and Fred Trump Sr.’s medical records were disclosed.

Mary Trump on Thursday filed suit in a New York court against Donald Trump, Barry and the estate of their brother Robert Trump, alleging that they — as executors of their father’s estate — later deceived her about the “true value” of what she believes she should have inherited. Her complaint said she was “fleeced her of tens of millions of dollars or more.”
Mary Trump said in a statement to The Post that Donald Trump’s initial effort to change his father’s will when his mental state was in decline is still relevant today because it shows how he put his own interests above even those of his own family members.

“As demonstrated by his willingness to alter his father’s will illicitly and in secret, there are no limits to Donald’s unethical behavior,” she said. “Because doing so benefited Donald, however, he had no compunction about deceiving his father in order to defraud his own siblings. There is no code of conduct, no moral or ethical imperative that stands in the way of Donald’s craven willingness to achieve his ends no matter the means.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere, asked for comment, said via email: “Old News. Totally False.”

The state of Fred Trump Sr.’s mind, as it turned out, would prove to be a crucial factor for his son as the legal dramas over the estate escalated.

Trump’s business problems

By the end of 1990, Donald Trump’s financial problems were spiraling out of control, and he increasingly looked to his inheritance as his salvation.

“It was a very bad period of time and if for any reason I was not able to come out of this well, then this would be giving me a trust to protect the money” that he would inherit, Trump said in a deposition he gave in the 2000 inheritance case, explaining why he came up with the idea to amend the will.

His casino empire at the time was in “severe financial distress,” according to a report by New Jersey regulators, the Trump Shuttle airline was losing millions of dollars per month, and his latest project, his crown jewel called the Taj Mahal, was cannibalizing business from his other casinos.

Trump convinced bankers to give him a $100 million line of credit, he told The Post in an interview for the biography “Trump Revealed.” But the possibility of personal bankruptcy still loomed, and he pleaded with more bankers — one of whom later told The Post that they gave him a financial lifeline only because if he went down, they might go down, and thus was worth keeping “alive.”

Still, the debts kept mounting, and Trump relied even more heavily on the man who had repeatedly bailed him out: his father. Fred Trump Sr. sent a lawyer to one of his son’s casinos with a check for $3.35 million, which paid for 670 gambling chips worth $5,000 a piece, according to a New Jersey regulator’s report. The maneuver funneled desperately needed cash into the casino.

Donald Trump, right, waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City in 1990, seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal casino.

But it still wasn’t enough. A string of six corporate bankruptcies would follow. Fearing that his future inheritance would be seized, Donald Trump came up with his plan for an amendment, known as a codicil, to his father’s will.

While Trump had been expected to be the lead executor in an initial version of the will, this amendment would have broadened that role, according to Mary Trump’s account in her book. She wrote that the codicil would have put his siblings “at Donald’s financial mercy, dependent on his approval for the smallest transaction.”

Don Novick of Novick & Associates, an expert on New York estate law who reviewed the documents at The Post’s request, said: “It gave [Donald Trump] an enormous amount of authority he didn’t have in the original will. It gave him essentially full control to do whatever he wanted to run these businesses and to use estate and trust assets for that purpose.”

The codicil, reported by the New York Times in 2018 as part of its investigation into the family’s tax-avoidance measures, also was designed to protect Donald Trump’s inheritance from efforts to seize it by creditors and Ivana.

Trump’s uncontested divorce from Ivana was finalized in December 1990, with cruel and inhuman treatment by Donald Trump cited as the grounds. The division of property was then to be decided. Ivana had originally asked for $2.5 billion, half of Trump’s estimated worth, but his lawyers said her prenuptial agreement allowed her to receive less than 1 percent of his assets. (A private settlement eventually would be reached. Ivana Trump said in a brief telephone conversation: “I have no idea what Donald Trump and his father did. I have no comment.”)

‘You’re not signing anything’

Donald Trump asked a lawyer, Peter Valente, to write the codicil, according to Barry’s deposition in the 2000 case. (Valente said he could not discuss the matter due to attorney-client privilege.) Then, instead of presenting the proposal to his father, Trump said in the deposition that he sent two of his father’s most trusted associates to make the pitch in December 1990. They were Fred Sr.’s lawyer, Irwin Durben, and his accountant, Jack Mitnick.
Durben died in 2016. Mitnick declined to comment.

When Durban and Mitnick brought the codicil to Trump’s father for his signature, Trump’s mother, Mary MacLeod Trump, looked at the document and told her husband, “You’re not signing anything until I have had a chance to read it,” Barry said in the recording made by her niece.

Maryanne Trump Barry’s deposition from 2000 inheritance case

Q. Can you tell us when you first became aware of that document?

A. I first became aware of this document when my father called me and said he had been given this document by Irwin Durben and Jack Mitnick and asked to sign it and he said he didn’t like what he saw in there and he wanted me to take a look at it.

Q. Do you know approximately when that phone call was?

A. It wasn’t, I am trying to remember. It was either late 1990 or early 1991 and I have a distinct recollection of him bringing the document to me when we were down at my brother Donald’s house in Florida for a weekend that early 91. Early 91 maybe. But in any event, he called me on it and brought it to me because he was disturbed by what he read.

After Fred Trump Sr. refused the request to sign the document, he called Barry. Fred Sr. later met with his daughter, showed her the proposed codicil and said he was annoyed at the way Donald had tried to use two trusted advisers to get him to “sign it immediately,” according to Barry’s deposition in the 2000 case.

As father and daughter discussed the document, Barry said, they concluded that it would mean “Donald has sole control of everything as the executor/trustee, can sell, do anything he wants, you know, with the properties,” Barry said in her deposition.

Maryanne Trump Barry’s deposition from 2000 inheritance case

Q. So he [Fred Trump Sr.] expressed to you some sort of concern that by dint of the instrument putting Donald in control of the assets, even as his capacity as fiduciary, that somehow creditors of Donald would be able to attach the assets?

A. Right. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how he perceived it and that is how it looked to me too.

“Dad was concerned because although he always had the highest respect for Donald and admiration for him, this was a time when Donald was in precarious financial straits by his own admission and Dad was very concerned as a man who worked hard for his money and never wanted any of it to leave the family,” she said.
“He said to me . . . ‘This doesn’t pass the smell test,’ ” Barry said. “Here’s his attorney giving him something that he reads [that] could potentially denude his estate and he was annoyed that should happen that way.” It was done “behind his back, he had not authorized it, didn’t know they were going to give it to him for signature.”

It was left to Barry to tell Donald Trump that their father was killing the codicil. Years later, Trump, who rarely admits a mistake, said in a deposition that “I blame myself” for the way he sought the change in the will.

Donald Trump deposition from 2000 inheritance case

Q. Did Mr. Mitnick ever tell you what aspect or aspects of the whole episode your father found annoying, if I can use that word?

A. I think the presentation was not handled properly and he didn’t know Mr. Valente, didn’t feel comfortable having a lawyer that he never met putting a codicil in front of him and that was it. He wasn’t happy about it and I blame myself for that because I think the presentation was probably, in retrospect, not done right but I had a lot of things on my mind at that the point and this is not the biggest thing at all.

“My father wasn’t happy about it,” Trump said in his deposition. “The man was very, very sharp and wanted to know, you know, who the lawyer was. He wanted to read the document, wanted to get to understand the document and in the end he just didn’t like maybe the concept of the document or didn’t like the way it was presented or he just wanted to review the whole situation.”

By the spring of 1991, Fred Trump Sr. was working on the new will that made Donald Trump a co-executor of the estate, along with two of his siblings, Robert, who died August 15, and Maryanne. (The other siblings are Fred Jr., who is Mary’s father and died in 1981, and Elizabeth, who was not an executor of her father’s estate and thus not actively involved in the matter.)

Another fight

It was at this time that a new question came up: What would be given to the two children of Fred Trump Jr., Donald’s older brother, who had died in 1981 of an alcohol-related disease?
Mary and Fred III went to court in 2000 to argue that Fred Trump Sr. was not of sound mind when Donald and his siblings sought changes in the will in September 1991 that led to their effective disinheritance.

To bolster their case, they obtained medical and other records that showed Fred Trump Sr. was increasingly in mental decline. Mary said in an affidavit that her grandfather suffered from “senile dementia” and alleged that the will was “the product of undue influence and coercion” by Donald Trump and his siblings.
Robert Trump, Donald’s younger brother, said their father had been in “notable decline” in his cognitive ability starting in 1990, the year that Donald wanted his father to sign the codicil, according to medical records.
Robert Trump’s deposition from 2000 inheritance case

A. My father was very angry that a document, again, a document which I had never seen nor was I aware of it, but a document had been presented to him for signature almost as if it was a fait accompli, and evidently the preparers of the document were Mr. Durben and Mr. Mitnick, and I later learned it was also Mr. Valente, whoever he was.

And my father was quite unhappy that they had not had the courtesy and the professionalism to tell him that they were working on something, truly on his behalf as well as Donald’s behalf, and gave it — gave him a document and said, sign this and we’ve got to get it fast, sign it. And when he read it I don’t believe he understood it completely. So he was very unhappy with those two individuals particularly.

Then in October 1991, Fred Trump Sr. went to see one of his physicians, C. Ronald MacKenzie. The doctor wrote in his report that Fred Trump Sr. had “significant memory impairment” and showed “early signs of dementia.” In his notes, MacKenzie wrote that Trump Sr. had “obvious memory decline in recent years.” MacKenzie declined to comment.

In February 1992, Fred Trump Sr. underwent a neuropsychological evaluation by Rajendra Jutagir. The doctor wrote in the report, which is included in court records, that Fred Trump Sr. “did not know his birth date, was unsure of his age, and turned to his son [Robert] for help in responding to some questions.”
Jutagir’s exam found that the senior Trump’s cognitive ability was below the 15th percentile for a person in his age group. He could not recall what he was told 30 minutes earlier, the report said. He was given standard tests and failed or performed poorly. He was able to recall only three of the previous nine U.S. presidents. He was unable to draw hands on a clock to show a requested time. After reading a story, he could only remember one detail out of 23. Jutagir could not be reached for comment.

Rajendra Jutagir’s report

Memory: Immediate recall of stories read to him was poor relative to his achievement. Although norms are not well established for his age group, conservative estimation suggests performance below the 15th percentile. After a delay of 30 minutes recall of stories was nil. Immediate recall of a story that he read to himself was also impaired as he could remember only one detail (out of a possible 23), and showed evidence of mild confabulation.

From a 1992 medical record about Fred Trump Sr.

Despite all of this, Donald Trump insisted in his deposition that he never saw or heard of any evidence of his father’s mental decline during this time.

“Do you recall him being diagnosed as having senile dementia in 1991?” Trump was asked by a lawyer in the deposition.

“No,” Trump responded.

“Do you recall him exhibiting any confusion in 1991?” the lawyer asked.

“No,” Trump said.

Then, when the lawyer asked Trump to look at a doctor’s report from October 1991 that said his father “has mild senile dementia,” Trump said he knew nothing about it.

2000 Donald Trump deposition

Q. Let’s look at the exhibit. On Page 3, under the entry in the middle of the page, October 3rd of 1991, the 3rd paragraph next to the last sentence. “He [Fred Trump Sr.] has mild senile dementia.” You indicated before you had never heard of that. Does this in any way refresh your memory that some doctor made such a diagnosis on October 3rd of 91?

A. No.

Q. And you never heard it at any time thereafter through the end of 1993?

A. No, I have not.

(When asked during the 2016 campaign about dementia in his family, Trump said on “The Dr. Oz Show” that his father developed signs of Alzheimer’s disease only in “the last few years” before dying in 1999.)

Mary Trump said in an affidavit in her 2000 case that the executors of Fred Trump Sr.’s estate, including her uncle Donald, had “lied in the probate proceeding” about the elder Trump’s mental health and coerced the elder Trump to effectively disinherit her and her brother.

Trump and his brother Robert led an effort against a challenge to the will made by Mary and her brother, Fred III, saying they would withdraw medical care that was being provided by a Trump company to Fred III’s son, William, who had cerebral palsy. Donald Trump told the New York Daily News that after he was sued by Mary and Fred III over the will, he decided, “Why should we give [William] medical coverage?”

Mary Trump’s 2000 Affidavit

At the time, my uncle [Robert Trump] reported to the neuropsychological examiner that my grandfather’s memory had been in “notable decline” for the past two years. This is the same man who swore at his deposition, as did his brother and sister, that his father was mentally fit at the time he made his Will.
In the end, Mary and Fred III settled the inheritance fight and signed confidentiality agreements.

But Mary said this year she wasn’t bound by secrecy because of what she had learned about the value of the estate. Based on records she provided to the New York Times, she said had she been told the estate was worth $30 million when it was actually worth closer to $1 billion. She said she began to secretly record her aunt in an effort to extract knowledge about what Mary considered the family’s deception.

The fallout, as it turns out, had been foreshadowed by one of Fred Trump Sr.’s advisers, whose name is not disclosed in court records. In 1991, the adviser wrote him a memo that referred to the way he was effectively disinheriting Mary Trump and her brother. Suggesting that he consider giving them a more equitable share of the inheritance, the adviser wrote: “You may wish to increase their participation in your estate to avoid ill will in the future.”

The elder Trump ignored the advice.
Nearly 30 years later, Mary Trump, still upset over the inheritance battle and deeply at odds with her uncle’s political views, published her book with the title “Too Much and Never Enough.”

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, recently released a major study of segregation and charter schools by Dr. Helen Ladd and Muvzana Turaeva of Duke University.

Dr. Samuel Abrams introduced it here.

The issue of school choice and segregation has been central to education policy debates for decades. In his initial argument for vouchers, published in 1955, Milton Friedman conceded that segregationists stood to employ vouchers to enroll their children in all-white private schools instead of public schools mandated to integrate a year earlier by Brown v. Board of Education. But to Friedman, the answer was not regulation but moral suasion. Friedman’s opinion was rendered technically moot in 1976 by Runyon v. McCrary, which barred private schools from making admissions decisions based on race, yet it nevertheless indicated a fundamental problem with systems of school choice.

With the introduction of charter schools in the early 1990s, commentators raised concerns about school location, inadequate transportation, contracts mandating significant parental involvement, and shared parental proclivities as implicit mechanisms or pathways to segregation. In “Parental Preferences for Charter Schools in North Carolina: Implications for Racial Segregation and Isolation,” Helen F. Ladd and Mavzuna Turaeva add substantially to the literature validating these concerns.

Using data for the nearly 11,000 North Carolina families who transferred their children from traditional public schools to charter schools in 2015-16, Ladd and Turaeva document that the migration of white, though not minority, switchers from traditional public schools to charter schools increased segregation. “We find that by switching to charter schools that are whiter than the traditional public schools they leave behind,” they write, “white switchers contribute to racial segregation across schools.” At the elementary level, 67 percent of white switchers enrolled in charter schools with lower shares of minority students; at the middle-school level, 72 percent of white switchers did so.

To buttress their analysis, Ladd and Turaeva employ a conditional logit model to estimate revealed preferences. To infer parental preferences by race as well as socioeconomic status, Ladd and Turaeva use five criteria to define the value of charter schools for parents: racial composition; proximity; academic achievement; availability of transportation and lunch; and mission. Ladd and Turaeva conclude that with these dimensions considered together, it is clear that white parents disproportionately favored white charter schools and exhibited a pronounced aversion to significantly minority charter schools.

With this working paper, Ladd, a professor emerita of public policy and economics at Duke University, and Turaeva, a doctoral candidate in public policy (with a specialization in economics) at Duke as well as a research associate at the Duke Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, build on research Ladd did with Charles Clotfelter and John Holbein for an article published by Education Finance and Policy in 2017 on growing segregation across the charter sector in North Carolina from 1999 to 2012. In addition, Ladd and Turaeva’s analysis complements a 2019 NCSPE working paper on charter schools in Kansas City by Patrick Denice, Michael DeArmond, and Matthew Carr, who found a disproportionate number of white students transferring from traditional public schools to new charter schools from 2011 to 2015.

Lucid, rigorous, and supported with eight tables of telling data, this study advances our understanding of school choice and raises important questions about how choice systems should be designed.

Samuel E. Abrams
Director, NCSPE

Blogger G.F. Brandenburg discovered a very clever post by Bill Svelmoe advising Democrats how to handle the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy C. Barrett.

Don’t attack her personally. Don’t question her religious views. Don’t ask her how she will rule on abortion or Obamacare (nominees never answer questions about cases which they may hear.)

Ask her about Trump’s actions.

Here are a few of his ideas:

Instead Democrats should focus on the past four years of the Trump administration. This has been the most corrupt administration in American history. No need for hypotheticals. The questions are all right there.

Judge Barrett, would you please explain the emoluments clause in the Constitution. [She does.] Judge Barrett, if a president were to refuse to divest himself of his properties and, in fact, continue to steer millions of dollars of tax payer money to his properties, would this violate the emoluments clause?

Then simply go down the list of specific cases in which Trump and his family of grifters have used the presidency to enrich themselves. Ask her repeatedly if this violates the emoluments clause. Include of course using the American ambassador to Britain to try to get the British Open golf tournament at a Trump property. Judge Barrett, does this violate the emoluments clause?

Then turn to the Hatch Act.

Judge Barrett, would you please explain the Hatch Act to the American people. [She does.] Judge Barrett, did Kellyanne Conway violate the Hatch Act on these 60 occasions? [List them. Then after Barrett’s response, and just fyi, the Office of the Special Council already convicted her, ask Barrett this.] When Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top advisors openly mocked the Hatch Act after violating it over 60 times, should she have been removed from office?

Then turn to all the other violations of the Hatch Act during the Republican Convention. Get Barrett’s opinion on those.

Then turn to Congressional Oversight.

Judge Barrett, would you please explain to the American people the duties of Congress, according to the Constitution, to oversee the executive branch. [She does so.] Judge Barrett, when the Trump administration refuses time and again [list them] to respond to a subpoena from Congress, is this an obstruction of the constitutional duty of Congress for oversight? Is this an obstruction of justice?

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan is unconstitutional.

The voucher plan was supposed to be installed only in Memphis and Nashville, over the objections of their representatives. The deciding vote was cast by a legislator from Knoxville, after he was promised that the voucher program would not include his district.

A victory for friends of public schools and communities in Tennessee!

I watched the debate in full with a sense of horror and disgust. Trump was a bully. He was rude and overbearing. Trump was obnoxious. He degrades the presidency. There was no fact-checking and Trump repeatedly lied.

It should have been X-rated so that young children and adolescents did not see Trump’s crude behavior and assume that’s how adults are supposed to behave. He is a role model of what NOT to do.

I probably won’t watch the remaining “debates,” because what’s the point? The viewer learns nothing and hears lies and sees crude behavior from Trump, who never learned to tell the truth or act properly.

Chris Wallace tried to moderate but he could not control Trump, who was acting like a spoiled brat. I wanted to turn it off but didn’t. It was a disgusting portrayal of the state of American politics. Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. When he called on his followers to go to the polls to make sure there was no cheating, I imagined militias with AK-47s at the polls.

Here is Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

Halfway through Tuesday night’s first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News raised his voice and took the extraordinary step of scolding President Trump.
“The country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions,” Wallace said. “I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.”

Trump interrupted: “And him, too!” he said, referring to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting,” Wallace said.

“He’s done plenty,” Trump said, interrupting again.

“Well, less than you have,” the moderator replied.

That was wry understatement. It wasn’t a debate in the traditional sense. Biden and Wallace were participating in a debate. Trump was shouting, hectoring, interrupting and generally making it impossible to have a discussion:




“Socialized medicine!”


“There’s nothing smart about you, Joe!”

“China ate your lunch, Joe!”

When he did produce more than a taunt or an insult, Trump’s sentiments were either odd (“the forest floors are loaded up with trees”) or dark. He refused to condemn violence by white supremacists and hinted that he might rely upon their violence if he loses the election. He offered an ominous message to the white-nationalist group Proud Boys: “Stand back and stand by.”

Ahead of the debate, Trump had suggested that Biden be tested for performance-enhancing drugs that supposedly cure his supposed senility (Biden “doesn’t know he’s alive,” Trump often says). But on Tuesday night, Biden was calm and in control, while Trump was the one operating in altered reality: ranting, irrational and seemingly unaware of the conversation occurring in his midst.

Wallace kept trying, and failing, to rein in Trump: “Mr. President. Mr. President. Mr. President! . . . If I may ask a question sir. . . . Mr. President, I am the moderator of this debate, and I’d like you to let me ask my question.”

Biden answered Trump’s stream-of-consciousness invective with appeals to unity. When Trump went after Hunter Biden and Burisma, the former vice president, speaking directly to the camera, noted that he could go after Trump’s family, but “this is not about my family or his family. It’s about your family. . . . He doesn’t want to talk about what you need — you, the American people.”

When Trump called racial sensitivity training “absolutely insane” and part of a “radical revolution,” Biden responded: “We’re all Americans. The only way we’re going to bring this country together is bring everybody together. . . . We can take this on and we can defeat racism in America.”

Biden let his erratic opponent get under his skin a few times, calling him a “fool” and asking him to “just be quiet for a moment” and “shush for a minute,” and even this: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential. . . . Keep yapping, man.”

The Democratic nominee called Trump “the worst president America has ever had” and said “it’s hard to get any word in with this clown.” Biden caught himself. “Excuse me, this person.”
If you could hear him through the din, the challenger landed some solid blows, criticizing Trump’s dismissal of the covid-19 death toll by saying “it is what it is.” Said Biden: “It is what it is because you are who you are. . . . He said he didn’t tell us or give people a warning of it because he didn’t want to panic the American people. You don’t panic; he panicked.”

Biden told Trump to “get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap on your golf course and go in the Oval Office and bring together the Democrats, Republicans and fund what needs to be done now to save lives.”

By way of parrying Biden, Trump offered falsehoods, claiming Anthony Fauci doesn’t approve of mask-wearing (“he said very strongly masks are not good”), claiming his rallies were only outdoors (they have been indoors, too) and said Biden errantly claimed to have attended the wrong university (a right-wing online claim that has been debunked).

But for all his heckling, shouting and nonsense talk, Trump made one thing perfectly clear: He’s getting ready to take his chaos and mayhem from the debate stage and use it to try to disrupt the election itself.

In the final segment, not long after Trump stood up for the Proud Boys, Wallace asked the candidates to “reassure the American people” that the “legitimate winner of this election” will be the next president.

Biden offered that reassurance, and he urged Americans to vote, because Trump “cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election.”

Trump, by contrast, went on a final rant about “crooked Hillary Clinton,” people “spying on my campaign,” and about how mail-in balloting is “a fraud and it’s a sham.” He told Wallace: “Don’t tell me about a free transition.”
“This is a horrible thing for our country,” Trump concluded. “No, this is not going to end well.”

The president, by his actions Tuesday night, made it abundantly clear that this is not a prediction. It’s a promise.


The rise of the Religious Right has coincided with the privatization movement in public schools. While some may feel that this is coincidental, there is reason to believe there is a directly causal relationship between these two factors. Two scholars, from different disciplines, will discuss how their work comes together to help explain the history and current state of efforts to diminish, if not dismantle, the American public education system. Katherine Stewart has written on the rise and increasing power of the Religious Right in her book The Power Worshipers. She will be joined by Diane Ravitch who has written extensively on education and, in her recent book Slaying Goliath, explores the history of the school privatization movement and the efforts to oppose it.

Please note, this is an online event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive an email with links to join the program.

Link to register:–Reli

The New York Times has a full copy of Trump’s tax returns. No mention of how they got them. Part 2 is a dissection of how eagerly he exploited his name and monetized his brand, no matter how low he had to go, including selling laundry detergent.

It begins:

From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.

“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”

It was all a hoax.

Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch.

Twelve years later, that image of the self-made, self-saved mogul, beamed into the national consciousness, would help fuel Mr. Trump’s improbable election to the White House.

But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.

Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.

By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from “The Apprentice” over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.

Tax records show that Donald Trump earned $197 million directly from “The Apprentice,” and $230 million from licensing and endorsement deals that followed. Bill Tompkins/Getty Images
The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.

There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”

The first set of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control warned that schools needed to take safety precautions to protect students and staff before reopening. Then in July, Trump and DeVos insisted that schools should reopen in full, even as Trump and his allies blocked passage of appropriations that provided the resources needed by schools to reopen safely. Trump’s highest priority was getting the economy open by getting parents back to work.

I wrote last July that the Trump administration pressured the CDC to revise its guidelines, emphasizing the importance of reopening and downplaying the safety guidelines. Getting re-elected meant more to Trump than the health of our nation’s students.

The New York Times tells the story:

Top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer to play down the risk of sending children back to school, a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic, according to documents and interviews with current and former government officials.

As part of their behind-the-scenes effort, White House officials also tried to circumvent the C.D.C. in a search for alternate data showing that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children.

The documents and interviews show how the White House spent weeks trying to press public health professionals to fall in line with President Trump’s election-year agenda of pushing to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible. The president and his team have remained defiant in their demand for schools to get back to normal, even as coronavirus cases have once again ticked up, in some cases linked to school and college reopenings.

The effort included Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, and officials working for Vice President Mike Pence, who led the task force. It left officials at the C.D.C., long considered the world’s premier public health agency, alarmed at the degree of pressure from the White House.

One member of Mr. Pence’s staff said she was repeatedly asked by Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, to get the C.D.C. to produce more reports and charts showing a decline in coronavirus cases among young people.

The staff member, Olivia Troye, one of Mr. Pence’s top aides on the task force, said she regretted being “complicit” in the effort. But she said she tried as much as possible to shield the C.D.C. from the White House pressure, which she saw as driven by the president’s determination to have schools open by the time voters cast ballots.

“You’re impacting people’s lives for whatever political agenda. You’re exchanging votes for lives, and I have a serious problem with that,” said Ms. Troye, who left the White House in August and has begun speaking out publicly against Mr. Trump.

According to Ms. Troye, Mr. Short dispatched other members of the vice president’s staff to circumvent the C.D.C. in search of data he thought might better support the White House’s position.

Jan Resseger read Derek Black’s new book–a history of American public education by a constitutional lawyer–and loved it.

I read Black’s book and interviewed him on a Zoom about the book. I too loved it. Black makes clear that public education is the central American tradition, an idea envisioned by the Founding Fathers and realized over decades as an engine of our democracy. In a multicultural, diverse society, public schools bring students together from many backgrounds, to live and learn together.

Her review begins:

Derek Black’s stunning new book, School House Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, threads together a history that has rarely been collected in one volume. Black, a professor of constitutional law at the University of South Carolina, presents the history of an idea first articulated in the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787, threatened again and again throughout our nation’s history but persistently revived and reanimated: that a system of public education is the one institution most essential for our democratic society. And, while the specific language defining a public education as each child’s fundamental right is absent from the U.S. Constitution, the guarantee of that right is embedded in the nation’s other founding documents, in the history of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, in the second Reconstruction during the Civil Rights Movement, and in every one of the state constitutions.

Today’s post will skim the history as Derek Black presents it; on Wednesday, this blog will explore how Black believes both public education and democracy are threatened today.

While the U.S. Constitution never formally names public education as the nation’s fundamental and necessary institution, the provision for public education is the centerpiece of the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787: “The Ordinances, and education’s role in them, however, cannot be so easily dismissed. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 is one of the most significant legal documents in our nation’s history and the current United States Code treats it as such… In many important ways, the history and effect of the Constitution and the Ordinances are inseparable. First, the documents were passed by many of the same people… Second, the Northwest Ordinance’s substance is a constitutional charter of sorts. Practically speaking, it established the foundational structure for the nation to grow and organize itself for the next two centuries. Precise rules for dividing up the land, developing the nation’s vast territories, and detailing the path that these territories would follow to become states are not the work of everyday legislation. They are the work of a national charter.” (Schoolhouse Burning, pp. 64-65). “The 1785 Ordinance specified how every square inch of the territories would be divided into counties and towns. Every new town had to set aside one-ninth of its land and one-third of its natural resources for the financial support of education. And every town had to reserve one of its lots for the operation of a public school.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p. 62) The Northwest Ordinances named the urgent purpose of public education and prescribed a means of funding the schools.

Jumping way ahead to the early 1970s, after President Richard Nixon replaced Chief Justice Earl Warren with Chief Justice Warren Burger and the U.S. Supreme Court moved away from the principles embodied in Brown v. Board of Education, Black describes the significance of San Antonio v. Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court case which declared that because the U.S. Constitution itself does not explicitly protect the right to public education, public schooling is not a fundamental right. Black believes the founding documents should be read to include the Northwest Ordinances and that the fundamental role of education is further affirmed through our nation’s troubled history: “(I)f you asked modern legal scholars whether education is a fundamental right protected by the federal Constitution, they would tell you no, and they would be correct in one sense. The United States Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) refused to recognize education as a fundamental right in 1972, reasoning that the Constitution neither explicitly nor implicitly protects education. The Court feared that nothing distinguished education from the various other things that are important in life, like food and shelter. The foregoing history, however, reveals that education is far different than anything else government might offer its citizens (other than the right to vote). The nation’s very concept of government is premised on an educated citizenry. From its infancy, the United States has sought to distinguish itself with education. More particularly, education has been the tool though which the nation has sought to perfect its democratic ideas.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p. 133)

And she continues:

I hope you will read Derek Black’s new book, for these comments merely skim the surface of his fascinating history of the American idea of public education. As he concludes his history, Black summarizes the book’s thesis: “The foregoing principles—the right to an adequate and equal education, making education the state’s absolute and foremost duty, requiring states to exert the necessary effort (financial or otherwise) to provide quality educational access, placing education above normal politics, and expecting courts to serve as a check—are all in the service of something larger: the original idea that education is the foundation of our constitutional democracy. Education is the means by which citizens preserve their other rights. Education gives citizens the tools they need to hold their political leaders accountable… Democracy simply does not work well without educated citizens.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p. 224) Black reminds us, however: “The founders articulated educational goals not with any certainty that they would spring into reality simply by writing them down, but in the hope that we might one day live into them.” (Schoolhouse Burning, p 71)

Once again, control of the Los Angeles Unified School Distict school board is up for grabs, and once again the billionaires hope to buy control so they can expand the number of charter schools. The latest financial disclosures show that Reed Hastings of Netflix has contributed $925,000 to try to defeat veteran educator Scott Schmerelson. Billionaire Jim Walton of the Walmart family added another $300,000. The charter lobby is flush with money to buy TV ads and flyers that smear Schmerelson and use vicious anti-Semitic tropes in their attack ads. The charter lobby is angry at Schmerelson for two reasons: 1. He fights fearlessly for the 80% of students in public schools. 2. He released the explosive fact that 80% of Los Angeles’ charter schools have vacancies, not waiting lists. His opponent Marilyn Koziatek has no experience in the public schools; she holds an administrative job in a charter school.

Download the .pdf here.

Note: Sara Roos of Los Angeles (blogger Red Queen in LA) prepared the graph of political expenditures based on public records.