A couple of months ago, a few of us from ProPublica and WNYC sat together in a conference room and started scribbling on a whiteboard. We were brainstorming all the possible paths to explore around President Trump and his family businesses.
It looked like Carrie Mathison’s wall from Homeland. There’s so much that’s still unknown: We don’t know if the president is taking money from his businesses, or what deals are happening, or who his business partners are, who’s providing the financing. It goes on and on.
Sitting there, staring at the whiteboard filled with basic, unanswered questions, something occurred to us: That is the story.
More than a year into Trump’s presidency, we still have no way to know whether he is making decisions that place his company’s interests — and profits — ahead of the country’s.
There’s never been a situation like this before, where the person elected to lead our country owns a sprawling, active business empire. Trump has refused ethics experts’ advice to divest himself from his businesses.
So we’re trying something new: ProPublica and WNYC are teaming up to launch Trump Inc. It’s a weekly podcast that will start with questions, not answers.
We’re thinking of it as an “open investigation.” We’ll be laying out what we know and what we don’t. And we’re inviting everyone — our journalism colleagues elsewhere, experts, tipsters and anyone else interested — to join us in the quest for answers.
In our first episode, we take a breath, roll back a year, and lay out how we got to this point, where it’s almost impossible to see the line between Trump the president and Trump the CEO.
In his first year, the president spent a third of his time at a Trump-owned property. He promoted his winery in Virginia during a press conference about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He plugged his New Jersey golf resort at an official speech in South Korea. And his daughter and son had nearly simultaneous business in India: one official, one private. The lines are blurred.
We’re trying to make sense of this situation, and we want to hear from you. We’re always eager for tips, so contact us. We also want to hear your questions. What would you like to know about Trump’s businesses? What confuses you? We may be able to answer, and even if not, we can at least try to explain why something isn’t known.