How did The Trump Organization refinance a Trump Tower mortgage with a $100 million loan?

The new loan is a refinancing of a commercial mortgage the Trump Organization took out on Trump Tower in 2012. That was a 10-year loan with an interest rate of 4.2% that came due this year, according to a financial disclosure filed by Trump.

The lender of the original mortgage loan was Ladder Capital, a New York firm where the son of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is a senior executive.

The new loan was apparently consummated on February 15, 2022 with Axos Bank of California.

Axos Bank? ‘Never heard of them’, you say.

Axos is a small [$14 Billion] boutique west-coast Federal Savings & Loan, formerly known as Bank of Internet, USA.

Axos has been in the press recently because of apparent ties to World Business Lenders and allegedly predatory loans to small business owners at rates of up to 268% APR, evading state usury laws by evoking the Axos federal charter.

CEO Gregory Garrabrants is head of Axos Financial Inc., the holding company which owns Axos Bank.

In 2018, Garrabrants compensation was $34.5 Million, more than Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. ($31 Million) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s David Solomon ($23 Million) raked in that year.

Federal Savings & Loan? Please don’t tell George Bailey about this!

Alvin Bragg:  You now are the District Attorney of Manhattan.

Did someone get to you?  Were there threats against your family?  Was there the promise of a payout that was just too rich to deny? Maybe some of each?

Donald J. Trump has gotten away with crimes in New York for decades. Witnesses, opposing counsel, judges get bought off, threatened or promised business will be sent their way later if they back off, disappear, and/or change their tune.

Donald J. Trump combined his exceptional skills in rhetoric and oratory with his propensity for self-dealing.  His narcissism is well documented.  His penchant for litigation is legendary.

It seems clear that Donald J. Trump deserves nothing less than a complete and thorough investigation of the veracity of his annual financial statements, and a thorough presentation to a grand jury which would provide the public with a complete and transparent look into allegations which have simmered for the past 3 decades, at least.

It’s no secret that — despite Trump’s historic focus on New York City real estate — none of the Money Center Banks have made a loan to Trump or a Trump affiliate for ages.  His creditors are Deutsche Bank and several non-bank syndicates.

Money Center Banks tend to be highly focused on the accuracy of financial statements and the creditworthiness of principals involved in any transaction.  Silence and lack of interest from Money Center Banks toward the Trump Organization should not be interpreted as modesty, indifference or ignorance.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence which most informed observers would interpret as aggressive intent by the Trump family and the Trump Organization to bamboozle taxing authorities and potential creditors through creative asset valuation techniques.

We – the public – are forced to sit on the sidelines confident that you – an elected District Attorney – will seek justice within the bounds of the law, serving the public interest while acting with integrity and balanced judgment to respect and protect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

We believe your recent choice not to pursue charges is unfair to Mr. Trump, the Trump family, and the general public.  A definitive outcome of this case is both needed and required.

Sadism in Tallahassee

March 5, 2022

Elected Officials Running Amok

Today, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S.:   21.5 Million and growing.

Florida has an elected, part-time legislature that seems to evoke the historic governance needs back when Florida had a post-WWII population of 2.5 Million.

How can it be that a particularly malignant cabal of ignorant, callous and wicked creatures was elected to state office in Florida in 2021?

Satan apparently had a mission for them:  Enact atrocious legislation to further torment Florida residents who are poor and/or downtrodden.

The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days. That’s it.

In contrast, Tennessee has a population of about 7 Million, with an elected legislature that meets for 90 session days over a two-year period.

Arkansas, with a population of 3 Million, closely mirrors the Florida model, except it has a much broader scope of representation per capita.

The Florida Legislature managed to propose and pass a number of specious bills during their 2022 Reign of Error.

One of the most egregious bills passed by the Florida Legislature in its 2022 session – known as CS/HB 5: “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” – is a clever ruse orchestrated by hard-core religious zealots which will primarily have adverse impact on socially and economically disadvantaged women, generally members of a protected class.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, so it seems clear he is aware of the focus Harvard Law has placed on Reproductive Rights.  Through his legal education, he has been exposed to a deep and intimate knowledge of Disparate Impact, the legal theory which helps to examine the effects of laws or practices which appear on the surface to be nondiscriminatory, but which have in practice a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.

Certainly Gov. DeSantis is entitled to embrace his own personal values, beliefs and opinions.  But, he is not entitled to use his position as an elected official to impose his personal values on the people of Florida.

We would expect that if CS/HB 5 <or a similar bill> should come to him for approval, he would veto it.

Yet, as of this writing, media sources predict that Gov. DeSantis will sign the bill into law.

Ron DeSantis: ‘We are right, and they are wrong.’

Ron DeSantis is a bully, and he has proved to be an awful Governor.

DeSantis thrives on political theatre, and he specializes in public events which use inflammatory tactics to rally a base of confused, uninformed and/or angry voters.

Since taking office in January 2019, DeSantis has:

  • Signed a sweeping voter suppression bill into law, citing baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Proposed a special police force to oversee state elections — the first of its kind in our nation — intended to protect Florida from nonexistent threats.
  • Opened pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites in wealthy Florida neighborhoods where his donors live.
  • Let nearly a million COVID-19 tests expire.
  • Appointed a science and medical contrarian (Lodapo) as Florida’s Surgeon General.
  • Occluded Florida COVID-19 data by firing DOH scientist (Jones), then sending armed tactical police to raid her personal residence.
  • Actively promoted the use of monoclonal antibody treatments as an alternative to vaccine.
  • Consistently refutes FDA guidance creating confusion and putting Florida residents at increased risk from COVID.
  • Orchestrated a fundraising tour across America while the Delta variant sickened and killed Floridians.
  • Signed laws restricting abortion access (2020).
  • Supports an oppressive abortion bill (SB 146 and HB 5) like the one in Mississippi.
  • Urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Refused to accept that climate change is an existential threat to our state.
  • Failed to prepare Florida’s coastal communities for rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.
  • Ignored the “red tide” algae bloom that scares off tourists, risking the engine which supports 1.6 million jobs and contributes over $96.5 Billion to the Florida economy.
  • Actively and aggressively created tension in our public education system resulting in a mass exodus of teachers and staff from Florida schools beginning in spring 2020.
  • In 2021, he targeted eight large school districts for defying his order prohibiting schools from enforcing mask mandates, helping to create toxic conditions for school district superintendents. This led to highly politicized and public confrontations and an unusual exodus of qualified and experienced leadership.

This is Ron DeSantis. He currently is Public Enemy Number One in the State of Florida.

George Orwell was right.

January 30, 2022

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

The School Board in McMinn County, Tennessee recently announced a decision to ban author and creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from their eighth-grade curriculum.

McMinn County, TN may be a poster child for the current divisiveness in America.

This rural county is home to just 54,000 residents and until very recently, was over 90% white.

As a whole, the State of Tennessee has been, and remains, predominantly Christian. About 81% of the population identifies as Christian, and 52% of Tennessee residents identify as Evangelical Protestants.

Plagued by the legacy of a mediocre public education system, poverty is rampant in McMinn County: Over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, including 24% of children (under 18) and 12% of seniors (65 and over).

The McMinn County School Board recent action helps to reinforce the notion that adults who themselves are products of a mediocre public education system are often incapable of making sound and fully informed decisions based on solid facts.  Or, we might say that these folks have been deprived of critical thinking skills due to the inadequacy of their public school system.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming increase in public displays of frustration, rebellion and even violence among adults who are constrained by the toxic combination of extreme religious ideologies and vulnerability to unreliable or false sources for (mis)information.

George Orwell was correct, and only WE can prevent the vociferous minority from subsuming the will of the majority.

The Florida bill which would severely impact the ability of women to make personal choices about their own reproductive health (known as HB5) passed its first House committee hearing on January 19, 2022, and it is now heading to new committees for further discussion.  (The companion bill in the Florida Senate is SB-146).  Among other things, the bill will place severe restrictions on women’s access to abortions in Florida.

Florida Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) perhaps said it best, “This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low-income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion. It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”

Kudos to Rep. Driskell for speaking out clearly and eloquently on basic human rights.

HB 5 will be presented in the Florida House ‘Professions & Public Health Subcommittee’ on January 19, 2022.

This proposed bill has a very clever title.

The real purpose of the bill is to codify into Florida law, “A physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”

HB 5 is a direct affront on the rights of all women to make personal decisions relative to their own lives.

Whenever arbitrary restrictions are imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, the actual outcomes have disproportionate adverse economic impact — and direct deprivation of human rights — on young women; low-income women; and women of color.

These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The great majority of published public opinions opposing open and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades – including both contraception and abortion – center on personal ethical, moral or religious values.

Nationally, the loudest voices opposing open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services come from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own – perhaps significantly different – beliefs.

I am aware of no rational person who considers abortion to be a primary means of family planning or birth control. Abortion is a last resort, a means to be employed only when all other options have failed.

I’m hopeful that you will reach a conclusion similar to mine on this Bill:  Florida’s government should focus on supporting our residents and improving health care, not taking away their rights, especially rights that can materially impact their health, livelihoods, and futures.

I encourage you to join me in asking members of the Florida Legislature to carefully and objectively examine the broad implications of HB 5 prior to taking a position on the Bill.

Ron is a native Floridian who worked his way through Yale University, where he was captain of the varsity baseball team, and he graduated with honors. He then graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, where he earned a commission in the U.S. Navy as a JAG officer. During his active-duty service, he was deployed to Iraq in support of various SEAL missions.

In simple words, his pedigree sounds impeccable.

Since his election to the office of Florida governor, Ron DeSantis has consistently engaged in political theatre by evoking confusion; separation; and division of the people of good will who call Florida home, apparently seeking immediate and durable personal political gratification.

Instead of taking a strategic leadership position to engage and protect the people of Florida based on factual scientific knowledge, he has issued a number of Executive Orders which are arbitrary, capricious and serve to support his personal campaign of rancid rhetoric and dangerous disinformation.

DeSantis married his wife Casey in 2010, and they are the parents of 3 young people: 2 daughters and one son, all under 7 years of age.

His Executive Order 2021-175 (which bars Florida school districts from instituting mask mandates in public schools) was an egregious example of misguided government overreach which may well prove to be a death warrant for many economically disadvantaged Florida students.  Can you imagine how or why a father of 3 young children would reject protecting youngsters from potential airborne transmission of a lethal virus?

Now, in his “State of the State” address delivered on January 11, 2022, Gov. DeSantis had a simple message on COVID-19 to Floridians:  “We were right,” he said, “and they were wrong”.

‘Florida was right to reopen the state early’, DeSantis said. ‘The federal government’s restrictions are wrong. Ideas such as critical race theory must be stamped out, and both China and the U.S. border with Mexico remain as serious threats to America’.

According to DeSantis, “Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions.”

I reject his irresponsible behaviors, divisive rhetoric and his constant efforts to actively quash any debate on subjects where he has taken a stand.

I am proud to join millions of other Floridians who actively oppose his future political intentions and any and all attempts of Ron DeSantis to run for public office again.

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.

Fact-based Research?

August 8, 2019

When I was in school, there was zero tolerance for opinion-based research.

You either backed up your work with validated facts from reliable sources, or you didn’t pass the class.

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Why is this important?

The commonly accepted proactive method to solve difficult problems is known as “Root Cause Analysis”.  It relies on a rigorous independent methodology to identify the Root Cause of an intractable situation; that is, zeroing in on the primary factor that is the foundational cause of the dilemma.

Removing the Root Cause of a problem prevents the problem from recurring.  Removing a causal factor (one that may affect an event’s problematic outcome) certainly can improve an outcome, but it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.

More than 2 decades after the Congressional ban on gun violence research, the paucity of research leaves some of our elected officials and media pundits to conjecture that ‘violent video games’, ‘mental illness and hatred’, ‘soft targets’ and plenty of other ingredients contribute toward increasing occurrences of domestic gun violence events.

A surprising number of elected officials have recently emerged, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider that access to military-style weapons could be the Root Cause of our gun violence problem.

Instead, we read or hear assertions that…‘racism, bigotry and white supremacy is the trigger. It’s not the gun’.

Research provides fact-based evidence.

There is no research which supports any notions that video games, mental illness or racism play a primary role in domestic gun violence incidents.

Despite the arbitrary Congressional moratorium on public funding toward the causes of gun violence, we have seen some compelling research from small private colleges and universities.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

Many studies on human brain development have provided a rich array of data which strongly supports the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

If we know that:

(1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males;

(2) Significant scientific research supports the theory that male brain development is delayed to early adulthood;

(3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 30 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s);

Lacking any specific research, what should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons, military-style ammunition and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47, and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Removing assault weapons from civilian access on a temporary – say 5 year time-frame – will provide a window of opportunity to conduct meaningful contemporary research.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

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As a nation, we have everything to lose – and nothing to gain – by refusing to face the facts we have at hand, and to engage in proper research to help guide our future policy.