How a single reporter stopped Trump’s foundation in its tracks

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When New York State Attorney General David Schneiderman ordered Donald Trump’s foundation to stop raising money, David Fahrenthold should have sent a bill.

Fahrenthold is a Washington Post reporter who reported that the foundation wasn’t properly registered even as it solicited donations. Between appearances on MSNBC and CNN last night, he detailed the persistence and good luck that led to the discovery, along with his ingenious use of crowdsourcing that’s made him to Trump’s charitable machinations what historian Edward Gibbon was to the Roman Empire.

Two weeks ago he was investigating how Trump coaxed those who owed him money to give to his foundation. One tax attorney said he couldn’t speak due to a conflict of interest. But he suggested a law professor about whom Fahrenthold, 38 and a 16-year Post veteran, would not have otherwise known.

She wanted to remain anonymous but did some checking on a state website after receiving Fahrenthold’s initial email request to talk. She then told him that it was clear Trump hadn’t properly registered. It was information hiding in plain sight. Fahrenthold had looked at the same stuff but hadn’t realized what it meant.

“Nobody realized the significance, not even the Attorney General,” he told me. “It (the filing) should have said something else. She (the professor) knew it was wrong. The designation was not what it was supposed to be. It was a complete surprise.”

Much of his Trump work is a direct result of dogged labor and adroit use of social media. When Trump said he’d given $1 million to veterans groups, Fahrenthold was suspicious when then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski wouldn’t identify the recipients.

Fahrenthold could directly contact the bigger vets groups, but not everybody. So he spent a day tweeting, asking for answers and help, and initially thought it was a waste. Soon, Trump actually gave out the $1 million. But Fahrenthold had learned a lesson: “I could do this in a broader way, looking for all the money he’d given out, not just to veterans.”

Among his subsequent scoops was discovering how Trump used foundation money to buy a $20,000 6-foot-tall portrait of himself. And then he learned how Trump bought a $10,000, 4-foot-tall acrylic portrait of himself at a charity fundraiser.

Fahrenthold went into greater detail during our chat, including his advice for journalists based on his campaign experience. Our back and forth is right here.

It’s too bad there are only five weeks left in the campaign. Imagine what this guy might still find.

The Daily Mail inspired a query

Who’d have thunk it? At Tuesday’s White House press briefing:

“Q: Is there any validity to a Daily Mail piece that the President offered to get Secretary Clinton a medical check-up at Walter Reed, given her health concerns?

Earnest: I have not seen that report, but I’m not aware of any such request.”

If Disney’s been thinking about buying Twitter…

“Disney shouldn’t buy Twitter, but the fact that it thought about it should terrify Big Media — If Bob Iger is worried about the future, what about everyone else?” (Recode)

In sum, “The fact that it was on the table suggests that Iger thinks his company, generally considered to be one of the best-run companies in the media world, needs a transformative jolt.”

Bill Clinton’s love child

Check out this tale, “My quest to find Bill Clinton’s love child — I tried to report out a supermarket tabloid story decades later. You’ll probably believe what happened next.” (The Daily Beast) Well, really, you need not check it out. It could have been renamed, “How I got nowhere on a B.S. story!”

Trump’s taxes

“I’ve seen Trump’s tax returns — in conjunction with an unsuccessful libel suit he filed against me in 2006 for my book ‘TrumpNation,” says Tim O’Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Gadfly and Bloomberg View and a former editor-reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. (Bloomberg)

“While I can’t write specifically about what I saw, I can say that the returns would give voters useful and tangible insights into Trump’s actual track record as a businessman, philanthropist and taxpayer. But Trump has chosen not to release his returns. And I doubt he ever will, because they would reveal that the career he boasts so much about is built on sand.”

The morning babble

With its vice presidential debate countdown clock ticking, CNN offered what can seem like an oxymoron — an “exclusive” interview with Joe Biden — on “New Day.” Trump “is not a bad man but his ignorance is so profound,” said Biden. Interviewer Chris Cuomo divined him “more fired up” about various issues, including the economy, than either Clinton or Trump and raised the notion that a presidential campaign by him might have been quite viable.

“Fox & Friends” made much of a report, supposedly extracted from State Department files, that then-Secretary of State Clinton wanted to bop WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with a drone. (Russia Today). And co-host Steve Doocy derided the “the mainstream media” for allegedly unfair stories (singling out NBC) about Trump’s post-traumatic stress disorder comments before vets yesterday.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was lively on Donald Trump’s taxes, with Mika Brzezinski arguing that Trump has played it right, Clinton wrong. After Mike Barnicle argued that the real story out in America is how it’s easier to lose $1 billion and survive than it is to own a small $275,000 so-called Cape Cod and survive, she disagreed. Imagine if she’s right in arguing:

“I hope you’re right, but I think you’re wrong,” she said. “People are hearing, they feel, the truth from Donald Trump. And I think the reaction from Donald Trump on this New York Times story was brilliant.” He’s “penetrating the ether” in ways Clinton’s not.

And, noted Willie Geist, there’s some evidence Trump’s standing among independents is rising. People who like him like the tax response, he said, but many are not paying attention to “the nitty-gritty stories” the press is making much of when it comes to Trump battle with the truth.

FOIA help for one and all

The Obama administration’s record on access to government records is underwhelming. So, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is launching FOIA Wiki. It’s “a collaborative and evolving digital resource on the federal Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA Wiki is part legal guide, part community space for sharing information that aims to serve as a central hub on all manner of issues surrounding FOIA as the law celebrates its 50th anniversary.”

How best to squelch journalism futures

Media managers spend a whole lot more time spurning than hiring job candidates these days. So here’s some advice from Harvard Business Review on writing a rejection letter. (Harvard) Say thanks. deliver the news, give the main reason and, then, “offer hope,” writes Sarah Green Carmichael, a senior editor there.

Oh, “If you can’t think of any hope to offer at the end, then don’t.”

Clickbait for the cultural cognoscenti

“Breaking News Alert: Boston Pops to take over July Fourth celebration on Esplanade.” (The Boston Globe)

Amazon and privacy

“In an effort to boost convenience, Amazon may be exploring a new way for customers to surrender privacy.” (Business Insider) A startup lock company and a startup connected garage door firm, both tied to Amazon, “are looking into ways to allow delivery people to leave packages in your house or apartment when no one is home, reports tech blog The Information.”

Now if only Jeff Bezos will also deliver The Washington Post and a double espresso, I’m fine with this. I’ll just defer to Richard Posner, a famous appeals court judge in Chicago who once debated me on privacy and argues that we “exaggerate the social value of privacy.” (New York Daily News)

So, just open the front door, put the paper and the espresso next to my favorite faux Eames chair in the living room — and don’t steal my wife’s jewelry.

Tonight’s vice presidential debate

Social media: “Facebook Live? Check. Snapchat Live Stories? Check. Twitter streaming live content from Bloomberg? Why not! It feels like the only social network the debates aren’t on yet is Tinder, which honestly, at this rate that’s how we’ll be casting ballots in 2020.” (Wired)

Yes, it was manslaughter

Trump said of Don King, the odious and filthy rich boxing promoter, “Whether you like him or not, that’s a smart cookie, a tough cookie, and he’s done a job.” That prompted New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman to tweet, “It was manslaughter, no? (The New York Times)

Yes. In her own paper’s review of Jack Newfield’s “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King,” a great unauthorized biography of the numbers runner-turned-promoter, we learn: “In 1966, Mr. King fatally kicked and pistol-whipped (gambler Sam) Garrett, a man more than 100 pounds lighter, on a Cleveland sidewalk in full view of bystanders. Garrett’s last words were, ‘Don, I’ll pay you the money.’ Mr. Newfield reports that a Cleveland judge with mob connections overruled a jury’s verdict of murder; Mr. King served 3 years 11 months on a manslaughter conviction.” (The New York Times)

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