Sean Spicer Got Caught in Lie About Trump's Businesses

April 4th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

On Monday, the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica released a barrage of tweets to fact-check White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, after he called the organization “a left-wing blog.”

ProPublica released a report earlier on Monday, which alleged that President Donald Trump’s trust agreement — which was allegedly crafted in order to build a wall between the president and his financial holdings — had been revised in February, allowing him to take money out at any time without disclosing it to the American people.

"The Trustees shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request, as the Trustees deem necessary for his maintenance, support or uninsured medical expenses, or as the Trustees otherwise deem appropriate," the language reads, according to ProPublica.

Spicer was asked about the change during a press briefing. “I am not aware that there was any change," he replied. "Just because a left-wing blog makes the point of something changing, doesn’t mean it actually happened."

In their lengthy line of tweets, ProPublica released images of additions made to the trust agreement. They also said that they told the Trump Organization and the White House about their discovery in hopes of receiving an explanation for the alterations from both or either parties, which they did not receive, according to the publication.

Update, the Trump Organization responded to ProPublica saying:

"In an interview with ProPublica, Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten confirmed that President Trump can withdraw profits and underlying assets from his trust at any time.

"He also said the president has been able to withdraw money since Trump took office on Jan. 20. That language was not included in a Jan. 26 summary of the trust — what’s known as a trust certification — but was included in a Feb. 10 version of the document.

"Asked about the change, Garten said the Trump Organization prepares different versions of the summaries to “highlight different things for different people.”

"The full details of the trust are in what’s known as a trust agreement, which Garten said the Trump Organization will not release. He referred further questions about release of the trust agreement to the law firm of Morgan Lewis, which did not respond to a ProPublica request for comment. We have updated the story’s headline to reflect Garten’s comments."

One of Trump's lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon, said that he planned to be “isolated from his business interests,” back in January. The documents also state that the trustees "shall not provide any report to Donald J. Trump on the holdings and sources of income of the Trust," ProPublica wrote.

The president’s plan — to leave management of Trump-owned businesses to his sons and establish a trust — was deemed inadequate by many experts at the time. Some suggested the president should either establish a blind trust or divest from his businesses altogether. Anything less, it was argued, would either create conflicts of interest or the appearance of them.

As ProPublica noted:

"It’s not clear why Trump added the language to the trust document. His original trust document, which ProPublica obtained in January, designated Trump as the 'exclusive beneficiary.' It did not include any restrictions on when Trump could get the money."

They went on to say that the most assured way to be able to note whether the president has made a withdrawal from the trust would be to check his future tax returns. He notably refused to release his tax returns during the presidential campaign.

In the same thread, the investigative nonprofit tweeted reports about other potential Trump administration scandals in order to show that it holds “people in power accountable, no matter who they are." To show that this goal was non-partisan, ProPublica also tweeted three stories it had produced on President Obama failing to reach his own goal in regards to presidential pardons, “cav[ing] to big banks,” and failing to stop the further monopolization of big corporations.

Update 4/5/2017: This story was updated with comments to ProPublica from the Trump Organization.