Trump was using Trump foundation money in ways that apparently broke the law. He was using the foundation to buy things for himself.

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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As the countdown continues see the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th, his reputation, firstly as a Teflon candidate, now as a Teflon President-elect, has been well and truly cemented. (Okay, it doesn’t have the same ring as Teflon Taoiseach, but Polytetrafluoroethylene President seems a little long winded.)

This morning on Today with Sean O’Rourke, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold told the tale of another of the many scandals which, despite their gravity, have just seemed to slide off the skin of The Donald, like water off a ducks back, or an omelette of a Teflon pan.

“Trump was using the Trump foundation’s money in ways that apparently broke the law. He was using the foundation to buy things for himself. One of the most basic rules of charitable giving is that you can’t put money in your charity and then take that money to buy things for yourself. He was doing that.”

For many months, and with huge support from his editors at the Washington Post, David Fahrenthold conducted painstaking research into the often-heralded (principally by Trump himself) “charitable donations” of the property tycoon, routed principally through the Donald J Trump Foundation.

All, he discovered, was not as it appeared. Despite Donald Trump’s frequent and sometimes quite specific references to his charitable donations, actually tracking down where money had gone, proved very difficult. The figures just didn’t add up.

On one occasion, when the journalist uncovered the untruthfulness in a specific Donald Trump’s claim, he got a call from the property mogul himself.

“He called me directly to say, ‘okay, now I have given the million dollars away’. … I said, ‘would you have given this money away if I hadn’t been asking. Would you have kept it in your pocket if I hadn’t checked?’. And he said, ‘you are a very nasty guy. You should be ashamed of yourself, you are nasty person.’’

David called a total of 325 charities in total, in an investigation reminiscent of his legendary predecessors at the Washington Post, the famous Watergate investigators, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Good, old-fashioned investigative journalism. And what did he uncover?

Well, amongst other things, it seems Donald Trump was buying large portraits of himself, paying anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 per picture, from funds donated by others to his Trump Foundation. Some of those pictures now adorn his golf resorts around the world.

And here is where that old-fashioned traditional journalism married in perfect harmony with newer, citizen journalism. David used his many Twitter followers to track down one particular portrait by posting a picture of it on the social media outlet one morning. By that afternoon, one follower had identified its location by examining pictures on the website of a Trump resort in Miami. And by the evening, another follower had checked into the same hotel, and taken pictures of himself next to the portrait.

It was a fascinating anecdote, just one of many in a terrific interview which you can hear in full by clicking here.

© The Listener 2017

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