White House press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t offer a clear explanation or response to questions on Monday about new reporting showing that President Donald Trump can withdraw funds at any time from any of his businesses—without telling the American people.
Citing a trust document signed on February 10, online outlet ProPublica reported Monday: “Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.”
According to ProPublica reporters Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw:
The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on Feb. 10, stipulates that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets, such as the businesses themselves.
“It’s incredibly broad language,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a family estate and trust attorney outside Washington, D.C., who reviewed the documents for ProPublica.
There is nothing requiring Trump to disclose when he takes profits from the trust, which could go directly into his bank or brokerage account. That’s because both the trust and Trump Organization are privately held. The only people who know the details of the Trump trust’s finances are its trustees, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s chief financial officer. Trump’s other son, Eric, has been listed as an adviser to the trust, according to this revised document.
When asked about the report during Monday’s press briefing, Spicer said he’s “not sure what [the president has] withdrawn;” didn’t say whether Trump would disclose future withdrawals; claimed the trust document had not, in fact, been changed; and asserted that “the entire point” of setting up such a trust “is so somebody can withdraw money.”
He also dismissed the Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica as a “left-wing blog.”
— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) April 3, 2017
But the denunciation didn’t land as Spicer may have hoped:
Everyone at ProPublica is rolling.
Thanks for the laugh, Spicer. Happy Monday.
— Jessica Huseman (@JessicaHuseman) April 3, 2017