Thursday Reads: Trump and Deutsche Bank; Schools Reopening

Good Morning!!

Last night The New York Times revealed that Deutsche Bank has been cooperating in the New York Attorney General’s investigation of the Trump Organization for quite some time:

Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry.

The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued the subpoena last year to Deutsche Bank, which has been Mr. Trump’s primary lender since the late 1990s, seeking financial records that he and his company provided to the bank, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

But in a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

Trump, Deutsche Bank has been a frequent target of regulators and lawmakers digging into the president’s opaque finances. But the subpoena from the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., appears to be the first instance of a criminal inquiry involving Mr. Trump and his dealings with the German bank, which lent him and his company more than $2 billion over the past two decades.

Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena. Over a period of months last year, it provided Mr. Vance’s office with detailed records, including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump had provided to the bank as he sought loans, according to two of the people familiar with the inquiry….

The subpoena to Deutsche Bank sought documents on various topics related to Mr. Trump and his company, including any materials that might point to possible fraud, according to two people briefed on the subpoena’s contents.

That must have been quite a shock to Trump.

As The Daily Beast explains, Trump himself triggered the public announcements by Vance by mischaracterizing the investigation in legal filings: The Footnote That Could Lock Trump Up in 2021.

Things had already been going badly for Trump in this legal fight but he bought time as the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which ultimately rejected his argument, reasoning that “the public has the right to every man’s evidence.” The high court then returned the matter to a district court, while affording Trump with little remaining basis to object, in the absence of any reason to conclude that the subpoena will interfere with his official duties.

It is well established that grand juries have wide latitude to conduct investigations. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson put it, a grand jury “can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurance that it is not.” Therefore, if Trump had been astute, he would have accepted the high court’s decision and given up on his effort to block Vance’s subpoena. But Trump chose to overplay his hand. Last month, the president’s lawyers declared that the nature and scope of Vance’s investigation is limited to an inquiry into Trump’s illicit efforts to funnel hush money payments to former sexual partners during the months leading up to the 2016 election through his fixer, Michael Cohen, and contended that the purported narrowness of the inquiry meant that Vance had no right to make a broad demand for Trump’s financial records.

Yet Trump had no basis to make declarations about the scope of the DA’s investigation; indeed, the only detailed explanation Vance has offered to date is contained in a (properly) secretly filed portion of a declaration by one of his prosecutors that has been reviewed only by the court. Furthermore, by making uninformed assertions about the scope of the investigation, Trump was all but daring Vance to comment about the nature of an ongoing investigation in the run up to an election….

After noting that the DA has no obligation to disclose the nature or scope of an ongoing criminal investigation in response to a challenge to a subpoena—let alone improperly disclose grand jury evidence – Vance’s office stated that Trump’s claims about the supposedly limited scope of the investigation “is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record.” The DA’s brief then went on to quote the judge himself, who months ago—after reading Vance’s secret account of the matters under review—observed that it is related to “alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers.”

Ooopsie! Read more details at the link above.

Meanwhile, Trump is still pushing for schools to fully open around the country. It’s not going well in the places that have followed his advice.

The Washington Post: A Mississippi town welcomed students back to school last week. Now 116 are home in quarantine.

Last week, schools in Corinth, Miss., welcomed back hundreds of students. By Friday, one high schooler tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By early this week, the count rose to six students and one staff member infected. Now, 116 students have been sent home to quarantine, CNN reported Wednesday.

Despite the quick fallout, the district’s superintendent said he has no plans to change course.

“Just because you begin to have positive cases, that is not a reason for closing school,” Superintendent Lee Childress said in a Facebook Live broadcast on Tuesday on the school district’s Facebook page.

As districts around the country debate the merits of in-person classes versus remote learning amid an escalating novel coronavirus pandemic, the Corinth School District’s early experience shows how quickly positive tests can lead to larger quarantines.

ABC News: Students at school touted by Pence for reopening must quarantine due to COVID-19.

Fourth graders at a school in North Carolina have been asked to quarantine for 14 days after a student there tested positive for COVID-19.

The school, a Thales Academy in Wake Forest, said it was notified on Monday that the student became infected after having contact with an infected family member.

The student was asymptomatic and was last at school on Friday. Teachers who were exposed also will be quarantined.

Thales Academy, a network of private non-sectarian community schools with eight locations in North Carolina, made the news last week after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited a classroom and applauded the school for reopening.

Pence and DeVos visited a campus in Apex, not Wake Forest.

NBC News: Georgia second grader tests positive for coronavirus after first day of school, forcing class to quarantine.

Two suburban Atlanta school districts that began in-person classes Monday with mask-optional policies face more questions about COVID-19 safety protocols after on-campus pictures showed students packed shoulder-to-shoulder. The day after school resumed, one school announced a second grader tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the child’s teacher and classmates to be sent home to quarantine for two weeks, CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports.

In Cherokee County, dozens of seniors gathered at two of the district’s six high schools to take traditional first-day-of-school senior photos, with students squeezing together in black outfits. No one in pictures at Sequoyah High School in Hickory Flat or Etowah High School in Woodstock wore a mask.

In Paulding County, student pictures taken Monday and Tuesday show crowded hallways at North Paulding High School in Dallas. Fewer than half of the students shown are wearing masks.

More on this school from Buzzfeed News: The Truth Behind A Viral Picture Of A Reopening School Is Worse Than It Looked.

Behind a viral photo of a crowded hallway at a high school in Georgia, a potentially dire situation is brewing. Students, teachers, and parents fear the Paulding County school’s rushed reopening plans may be spiraling out of control just two days after students — who said they were told they could face expulsion for remaining home — returned to class despite reports of positive coronavirus cases among students and staff.

North Paulding High School, about an hour outside Atlanta, reopened Monday despite an outbreak among members of its high school football team, many of whom, a Facebook video shows, worked out together in a crowded indoor gym last week as part of a weightlifting fundraiser.

Within days of that workout, several North Paulding players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The school’s parents were notified just hours before the first day of class.

And multiple teachers at North Paulding say there are positive tests among school staff, including a staff member who came into contact with most teachers at the school while exhibiting symptoms last week. Teachers and staff said the school won’t confirm coronavirus infections among district employees, citing privacy reasons.

“That was exactly one week ago, so we are all waiting to see who gets sick next week,” a North Paulding teacher told BuzzFeed News of her exposure to the virus.

Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most cases.”

Read more at the link.

The Nashville Tennessean: These Tennessee school districts are already reporting COVID-19 cases after reopening.

Just two weeks after the first school districts in Tennessee reopened to students amid the coronavirus pandemic, some are already closing their doors.

Nearly 50 school districts have started the school year as of Wednesday — the majority of them in-person — and at least 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to schools have already been reported.

Two school districts, Coffee County Schools and Blount County Schools, have already closed schools or altered their schedules as a result of exposures to the virus.

Click the link for details.

Business Insider: An emergency medicine physician projects that if schools open in the fall, they’ll close by the end of October with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Citing the “confluence” of the flu season and increased exposure, one doctor with experience in advising city officials on public health said schools can either taking strict health safety precautions or expect to shut the school down again by the end of October if they reopen.

Matt Lambert, an emergency medicine physician and the former chief medical information officer for New York City Health and Hospitals, the nation’s largest public health system, told Business Insider that he is “all for very thoughtful attempts at reopening schools.” [….]

“For local schools, if they want to try and open up using some really practical techniques around mask-wearing and distancing and maybe even rotations of when students come, I think that is something worthwhile to try,” Lambert said, adding, “But the virus is more prevalent now than it has been at any other time.”

“If we move to open up schools, even with the best models we can think of, passing the virus is going to be inevitable,” he continued. “Kids can contract the virus; kids can transmit the virus. There might be some varying levels of what it’s like in kids compared to adults, but it is clear that they can do that.”

Lambert said, given the transmission of the virus, it would be “inevitable” for an infected student to pass on the coronavirus “to either a chronically ill teacher or an elderly loved one at home who may have a bad outcome from this.”

Naturally, teachers are scared. NPR: Most Teachers Concerned About In-Person School; 2 In 3 Want To Start The Year Online.

As the school year starts in many districts across the country, a new national poll of teachers from NPR/Ipsos finds overwhelming trepidation about returning to the physical classroom.

Eighty-two percent of K-12 teachers say they are concerned about returning to in-person teaching this fall, and two-thirds prefer to teach primarily remotely. On the latter point, teachers are aligned with parents and the general public: Another recent NPR/Ipsos poll found two-thirds of respondents thought schools in their area should be primarily remote, including 62% of parents of children under 18.

The teacher poll was conducted July 21-24 and included 505 respondents. Half teach at low-income schools.

When it comes to going back to the classroom, 77% of teachers are worried about risking their own health.

Read the rest at NPR.

There’s much more happening in the news. I’ll add more in the comments and I hope you will too.


Terrible Tuesday Reads: Iowa’s Chaotic Meltdown, Clusterf#ck, Sh#tshow

Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston, by Frederick Child Hassam

Good Morning!!

Can we please stop letting Iowa go first now?

 

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: R.I.P. the ‘First-In-the-Nation’ Iowa Caucuses (1972-2020).

The “first-in-the-nation” Iowa caucuses died Monday night after a protracted battle with advanced-stage omnishambles.

DeMoines Skyline by Buffalo Bonker

Or so we can hope. Iowa’s eccentric, endearing — and wildly anti-democratic — nominating contest has always been an indefensible institution. There is no reason why the most politically-engaged and/or time-rich citizens of America’s 31st most populous state should have the power to veto presidential candidates before anyone else in the country has a say. And yet, few of Iowa’s bitterest critics ever dreamed it would subject the country to something like this.

As of this writing, we are one hour into Tuesday morning and only a small fraction of Iowa precincts have reported their results. Officials currently say that they hope to have the numbers by “some time Tuesday.” The ostensible reasons for this are twofold. 1) This year, for the first time ever, the Iowa Democratic Party was required to report three distinct sets of results — the vote tally on “first alignment,” the vote tally on “final alignment” (when backers of candidates who lack 15% support redistribute their votes to higher-polling candidates), and the final delegate tally. In the past, the party was only on the hook for that last metric, which is much easier to tabulate. 2) To ease the burden of logging all this information from more than 1,600 precincts, the party developed an app for reporting results — which many precinct chairs could not figure out how to use. Thus, they began calling in the results on a telephone hotline. Much waiting on hold ensued.

Guess who pushed for the changes in the vote counting and reporting?

Politico: ‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results.

No results had been reported by midnight Eastern, and two campaigns told POLITICO that after a conference call with the Iowa Democratic Party, they didn’t expect any returns until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

Candidates stepped into the void. Pete Buttigieg went first by claiming victory — misleadingly, in the view of Bernie Sanders, whose campaign responded by releasing unofficial figures showing his strength. Amy Klobuchar also joined in by citing unverified results she said demonstrated a robust performance.

Edward Hopper cityscape

The biggest “winner” might have been Joe Biden. According to the Iowa entrance poll, he was hovering close to the viability threshold of 15 percent statewide. But the questions surrounding the vote-counting served to obscure a potentially poor performance. The former vice president, facing potentially ugly headlines going into New Hampshire and beyond, couldn’t get out of Iowa fast enough.

“We’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates,” Biden declared to a packed room on the Drake University campus. “It’s on to New Hampshire!”

Conversely, it might have delivered a blow to Sanders and Buttigieg, who appeared on track to do well in the state. Whether the victor turns out to be Sanders or Buttigieg or someone else, that candidate was denied the chance to give an election night victory speech to a nationwide audience — a springboard heading into New Hampshire.

Read more at Politico.

The New York Times:

The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.

It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Life in the Suburbs, by Leonard Koscianski

And the party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization.

And let’s not forget what happened with the final Iowa poll. Ben Smith at Buzzfeed News: This Iowa Poll Was Never Published. It’s Still Influencing What You Read.

The Des Moines Register spiked its poll Saturday night, but by the next day it seemed most reporters here had seen the numbers — or something purporting to be the numbers.

Here’s what happened: As the Des Moines Register readied a cover story and CNN prepped for an hourlong special about the time-honored poll, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name hadn’t been offered to some poll recipients. The pollster, Ann Selzer, quickly discovered the glitch in a Florida call center that triggered the error. It seemed likely to be just a minor error — but everyone involved cares about their reputation for trustworthiness, and they quickly decided to pull the poll rather than publish with doubts.

But the news organizations had already been preparing to publish the numbers, and a version of them began to circulate almost instantly. I won’t print those numbers: I haven’t been able to confirm that the numbers I’ve seen are the already-questionable official ones.

And yet, most veterans of coverage here trust Selzer’s surveys. So many acknowledged to me last night that they’d quietly taken the unreleased and possibly wrong numbers into account.

“Nobody was talking about Elizabeth Warren and now everybody thinks she has a shot because of those numbers,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant who supports Warren. (It’s not the only reason, I should note: Other polls this week also showed Warren in a strong position, as did the last published Selzer poll in January.)

Read more at the link.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process.

In trying to build a forecast model of the Democratic primaries, we literally had to think about the entire process from start (Iowa) to finish (the Virgin Islands on June 6). Actually, we had to do more than that. Since the nomination process is sequential — states vote one at a time rather than all at once — we had to determine, empirically, how much the results of one state can affect the rest.

By Ron Francis

The answer in the case of Iowa is that it matters a lot. Despite its demographic non-representativeness, and the quirks of the caucuses process, the amount of media coverage the state gets makes it far more valuable a prize than you’d assume from the fact that it only accounts for 41 of the Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates.

More specifically, we estimate — based on testing how much the results in various states have historically changed the candidates’ position in national polls — that Iowa was the second most-important date on the calendar this year, trailing only Super Tuesday. It was worth the equivalent of almost 800 delegates, about 20 times its actual number.

Everything was a little weird in Iowa this year, however. And there were already some signs that the Iowa bounce — which essentially results from all the favorable media coverage that winning candidates get — might be smaller than normal….

But we weren’t prepared for what actually happened, which is that — as I’m writing this at 3:15 a.m. on Tuesday — the Iowa Democratic Party literally hasn’t released any results from its caucuses. I’m not going to predict what those numbers will eventually be, although early indications are that Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and perhaps Elizabeth Warren had good results. The point is that the lead story around the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses is now — and will forever be — the colossal shitshow around the failure to release results in a timely fashion.

In other news, The New York Times Magazine has published an article adapted from David Enrich’s forthcoming book about Trump and Deutche Bank: The Money Behind Trump’s Money. The inside story of the president and Deutsche Bank, his lender of last resort. It’s very long and involved, but here’s a brief excerpt:

George Grosz, Street Scene

Last April, congressional Democrats subpoenaed ­Deutsche Bank for its records on Trump, his family members and his businesses. The Trump family sued to block the bank from complying; after two federal courts ruled against the Trumps, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments expected in the spring. State prosecutors, meanwhile, are investigating the bank’s ties with Trump, too. The F.B.I. has been conducting its own wide-­ranging investigation of ­Deutsche Bank, and people connected to the bank told me they have been interviewed by special agents about aspects of the Trump relationship.

If they ever become public, the bank’s Trump records could serve as a Rosetta Stone to decode the president’s finances. Executives told me that the bank has, or at one point had, portions of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns going back to around 2011. (­Deutsche Bank lawyers told a federal court last year that the bank does not have those returns; it is unclear what happened to them. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) The bank has documents detailing the finances and operations of his businesses. And it has records about internal deliberations over whether and how to do business with Trump — a paper trail that most likely reflects some bank employees’ concerns about potentially suspicious transactions that they detected in the family’s accounts.

One reason all these files could be so illuminating is that the bank’s relationship with Trump extended well beyond making simple loans. ­Deutsche Bank managed tens of millions of dollars of Trump’s personal assets. The bank also furnished him with other services that have not previously been reported: providing sophisticated financial instruments that shielded him from risks and outside scrutiny, and making introductions to wealthy Russians who were interested in investing in Western real estate. If Trump cheated on his taxes, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If his net worth is measured in millions, not billions, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If he secretly got money from the Kremlin, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know.

Also, Trump will give his fake state of the union address tonight, and I won’t be watching. What are you thinking and reading today?