During yesterday’s White House press briefing, Sean Spicer was asked about a story published by MrB’s organization, ProPublica, that morning. ProPublica’s Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw wrote that previously unreported changes to a trust document allow Trump to draw money from the supposedly “blind” trust for his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.
Spicer accused the nonprofit, nonpartisan, Pulitzer-Prize-winning, investigative-news organization of being biased. “I’m not aware there was any change,” Spicer said. “Just because a left-wing blog makes the point of something changing, doesn’t mean it actually happened. I’m not aware that there was ever a change in the trust, and the idea that the president is withdrawing money at some point is exactly the purpose of why a trust is set up.”
So ProPublica tweeted up a storm with alllll the receipts, including links to Trump- AND Obama-related stories, because, as ProPublica pointed out, “our job always has been and will be holding *all* those in power accountable.”
I was particularly interested in this behind-the-scenes tweet.
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) April 3, 2017
Gives you insight into how this White House works, right? The staff knew this story was coming and chose to deal with it this way. And, today, it turned out that Spicer’s “Change? What change?” reaction was even more disingenuous than it initially appeared. ProPublica updated its story to reflect an after-the-fact interview with Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten. Garten confirmed that Trump could withdraw profits and underlying assets from the trust at any time, but said that wasn’t a change. ProPublica pointed out that the language about withdrawals “was not included in a Jan. 26 summary of the trust — what’s known as a trust certification — but was included in a Feb. 10 version of the document.”
Garten explained that by saying “the Trump Organization prepares different versions of the summaries to ‘highlight different things for different people.'” OMG! Why doesn’t he come out and say what he means? Like, “We gave you a different version originally because we didn’t want you to see this thing that means Trump hasn’t made ANY effort to avoid conflicts of interest.” That’s after Trump’s December statement, “”I will be leaving my great business in total …” (NPR has a tally of the 10 ethics-related promises made by Trump. None of them have been fully resolved.)
The incident brought ProPublica a whole flock of new followers, according to MrB’s longtime friend and colleague, Dick Tofel.
— Richard Tofel (@dicktofel) April 4, 2017
Also yesterday, ProPublica won two Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism. The first winner was Busted, by Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders, about how police departments throughout the country “use roadside drug tests to send tens of thousands of people to jail each year, despite evidence that they routinely produce false positives.” The other award went to a story by Sarah Ryley — published in partnership with the New York Daily News — about abuses of nuisance abatement laws in New York City. The laws give police the power to evict people using their homes or business for illegal purposes, but they’ve been used against people who haven’t been convicted or even charged with a crime. This happens almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.
Congrats to ProPublica on its big day! And thanks for providing me with so many good links all at once. People often ask me about the range of topics that ProPublica covers, and, as you can see now, there are a lot of possible topics!
Remember, ProPublica is nonprofit, and your donations are tax-deductible.