A new sweeping investigation published by ProPublica and WNYC has brought to light a web of deception President Trump and his family have engaged in while “architecting” their real estate empire. It’s the sort of bombshell that would, in a rational universe, result in consequences for the Trump family but, like that massive New York Times report about the Trumps’ generations of flagrant tax fraud, will probably sizzle across the internet to no avail.
The report reveals that the president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump, “gave false sales figures for projects in Mexico’s Baja California; Panama City, Panama; Toronto and New York’s SoHo neighborhood. These statements weren’t just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers about the viability of the developments.”
Here, an around-the-world tour of Ivanka Trump’s reported exaggerations, misleading statements, and flat-out lies, all for the family business:
During an interview in November 2008, Ivanka boasted that she “sold 40 units in Panama last month.” She went on to say that “it’s a 1,000-unit building, we’ve sold over 90 percent of it,” and that the units were going for a “500 percent premium to anything the luxury market has ever experienced prior to our entry.”
Is any of that true? No. Literally, all of those statements are “exaggerated or outright false.”
That 2008 interview pushed back on Ivanka’s “40 units” claim, and she backpedaled, turning the “I” into a “we”: “We did, our project.” According to Jack Studnicky, lead real estate agent who was “deeply involved” with the project at hand (the Ocean Club) and, according to ProPublic and WNYC, “generally praised the Trumps,” said that, as far as he knew, Ivanka Trump hadn’t sold any units at all.
As for that 500 percent number, data filed with Panamanian securities officials puts the Trump bump at a more humble 150 percent premium.
Ratings for the Ocean Club’s bonds were lowered in February 2009, but you wouldn’t have known that by listening to the Trumps. A few weeks after the downgrade, Ivanka gushed about Panama in an interview with a publication called the Latin Business Chronicle. “Given the global downturn, the fact that sales remain so robust is a testament to the product, the brand and Panama,” she said. “Our biggest problem is not having enough inventory. We only have a small percent of the building left.”
In the end, the Ocean Club went bankrupt and the Trump name was removed.
According to a 2016 bankruptcy filing, only 24.8 percent of units in the Trump International Hotel sold.
But in 2009, Ivanka described the place as “virtually sold out.” This building, too, was constructed but went bankrupt and the Trump name was removed.
Yet another property that was built, went bankrupt, and saw Trump’s name removed from its face.
ALSO ON POLITICAL DIG: Ivanka Trump’s Old Jewelry Business Linked To Massive Money Laundering Scheme.
The Trumps’ propensity to overstate sales led them, as ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker reported last year, to be investigated on potential felony fraud charges in one case.
Ivanka had announced in June 2008 that 60 percent of the units at the SoHo tower had been bought when in fact 15 percent had, according to an affidavit filed by a Trump partner. The Manhattan district attorney’s office considered charging the Trumps but backed off after a visit from a donor — Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz.
If you’re thinking, “didn’t I just read something about Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and his questionable ethics re: investigations of alleged criminals?”, you are correct! He’s also been entangled in the Harvey Weinstein case. Vance’s failure to bring charges against the alleged serial sexual predator — along with the timely donations made to his campaign coffers by Weinstein’s attorneys — prompted an open letter from Time’s Up, which in turn led to Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling for an independent investigation of Vance’s handling of the Weinstein case.
Ambra Battilana speaks to waiting media outside the courthouse after the verdicts in the ‘Ruby bis’ case on July 19, 2013 in Milan, Italy. CREDIT: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
In a promotional video, a smiling Ivanka told potential buyers that she “actually chose to purchase a unit in the first tower” of this property. What she failed to disclose is that her deposit amounted to “less than half of the 30 percent other investors put in for their units,” as Univision reported. “Univision also reported that the developers overstated the percentage of units sold and had assigned 34 units to their own executives and other related parties.”