This week’s FOIA round-up: Tax returns reveals Trump’s inherited fortune, dash video informs Chicago cop’s murder trial, and Pennsylvania withholds decade-old report investigating sexual abuse

This week’s FOIA round-up: Tax returns reveals Trump’s inherited fortune, dash video informs Chicago cop’s murder trial, and Pennsylvania withholds decade-old report investigating sexual abuse

Plus, still time to nominate a First Amendment hero

Written by
Edited by Beryl Lipton and JPat Brown

In this week’s FOIA round-up, tax records show “self-made billionaire” President Donald Trump received hundreds of millions of dollars from his father, the video of Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of a Chicago cop - released by a public records lawsuit - is central to the officer’s murder trial, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General who’s pushing the Catholic Church to be more transparent about child sexual abuse won’t release a decade-old report investigating allegations of sexual assault against a former state college administrator.

See a great use of public records we missed? Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next round-up. And if you’d like even more inspiration, read past round-ups.

Tax returns reveal Trump’s inherited fortune

The New York Times released an investigation Tuesday that shows Trump received at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire over the course of his life through untaxed gifts, combatting his public narrative of being a self-made billionaire whose father didn’t contribute to his financial success.

The same day, the Times released a detailed report of how three reporters obtained more than 100,000 pages of public and confidential documents, some requested through FOIA.

Certainly a handful of journalists and biographers, notably Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, David Cay Johnston and Timothy L. O’Brien, have challenged this story, especially the claim of being worth $10 billion. They described how Mr. Trump piggybacked off his father’s banking connections to gain a foothold in Manhattan real estate. They poked holes in his go-to talking point about the $1 million loan, citing evidence that he actually got $14 million. They told how Fred Trump once helped his son make a bond payment on an Atlantic City casino by buying $3.5 million in casino chips.*

But The Times’s investigation of the Trump family’s finances is unprecedented in scope and precision, offering the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald J. Trump a gilded life. The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth.

The reporters who worked on the story said they only scratched the surface and there’s much more to find in Trump’s taxes and financial history.

Read the full story here and a description of the reporting team’s process here.

Dashcam video informs murder trial

The murder trial for the Chicago police officer who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death in 2014 is in its third and final week, Reuters reported.

Central to the trial is the dashboard camera video that was released after journalist Brandon Smith and attorney Matt Topic filed a Illinois Freedom of Information Act lawsuit - the same video that spurred days of protests in Chicago over police brutality toward black people. The 12-person jury, which includes one black juror, has repeatedly viewed the video.

Prosecutors have argued the video shows McDonald was not moving toward the officer, Jason Van Dyke, when he started shooting. Van Dyke said the video wasn’t taken from his perspective and testified that McDonald “never stopped” advancing toward him.

Read the full report here.

Pennsylvania state college sexual abuse report

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and attorney general’s office won’t release a 2008 report investigating allegations of sexual abuse by former East Stroudsburg University Vice President Isaac Sanders, the Associated Press reported.

Six former students sued Sanders and the state college in 2009. The men alleged Sanders offered them gifts, scholarships, and campus jobs, and then sexually harassed or assaulted them. The investigative report entered the federal court system during the civil suit and was sealed.

The students lost the lawsuit in 2014 and were rejected when they attempted to get the attorney general’s office to release the report in 2016.

Sanders recently filed a wrongful termination suit against the state. He was fired in 2008 on grounds that he “exercised exceedingly poor judgment toward” students and mishandled donor funds.

AP asked for the investigative report and was denied. The Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the report is still subject to the confidentiality agreement.

> The government’s position that it should remain out of public view stands in sharp contrast to Shapiro’s well-publicized effort to force the Catholic Church to be more transparent about child sexual abuse.

> The first-term Democrat has been on a media blitz since he released a blockbuster grand jury report that found senior officials in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up widespread abuse by predator priests.

Read the full report here.

Nominate a first amendment hero

Do you know someone who goes above and beyond to fight for the First Amendment and open government? Nominations are now open for the First Amendment FAC Free Speech and Government Award!

Deadline for nominations is October 31st, 2018. For more information and submissions, click here!

Read a great FOIA-based news story we should highlight? Let us know and maybe we can include it in our next roundup! Send it over via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Image via White House Flickr