Trump Family Affair

Happy families are all alike. . . .

– Leo Tolstoi,  Anna Karenina

I’m sure Maryanne and Donald have enjoyed some good laughs over it while contemplating how different the outcome would be had their roles been reversed.

Maryanne got rid of any adverse consequences from her past bad conduct by retiring.  Donald avoided facing any adverse consequences from his past bad conduct by not retiring.  The two of them present a nice study in contrasts arising solely from their respective position in the public sphere.  They both got into the perilous positions in which they found themselves, because their moral compasses were not properly set prior to the time they embarked on life’s journey.

Maryanne was, until February 11, 2019, a federal judge on one of the second highest courts in the country.  Her career as a federal judge began in 2003 when Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Federal District Court in New Jersey.  Prior to her appointment, she had served as a federal prosecutor where she was engaged in prosecuting people for the sorts of conduct that present knowledge suggests she and her siblings engaged in.  In 1999 she was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Bill Clinton.  There she served until she resigned.

On October 2, 2018, an entire section of the New York Times was devoted to a detailed examination of how Maryanne, Donald, and the rest of the family engaged in what appeared to be criminal tax practices for which they had never been prosecuted or held accountable. Although many parts of the report were devoted to Donald’s activities, several episodes involved all of Donald’s siblings and, in at least one case, a cousin.  One involved the creation of a fictitious company, the machinations of which provided large amounts of cash to flow to Donald, Maryanne, their siblings, and a cousin. Thanks to that scheme, the children received significant amounts that, but for that scheme, would have constituted taxable gifts.

In one transfer, certain properties were placed into two trusts that ultimately benefitted the Trump children.  For purposes of the gift tax returns that were filed, the properties were valued at $41.4 million.  Nine years later in subsequent transactions, those properties were valued at nearly $900 million.

In another transaction a shell company created by the siblings was used to siphon money from their daddy’s pocket into their respective pockets.  They used fraudulent figures to justify rent increases for thousands of tenants in Trump owned properties, the fruits of which landed in their pockets.

According to some tax experts, the procedures followed by Maryanne and her siblings, might have constituted tax fraud, since the scheme permitted the transfer of millions of dollars to the beneficiaries of the scheme without the imposition of a gift tax on the amounts transferred, a tax that, if  imposed, would have significantly reduced the value of the gifts.  Others said if those schemes had come to light earlier, they would have subjected the children to a criminal investigation based on tax fraud, filing false documents, and defrauding tenants.

Following publication of the NYT report, four lawyers filed a complaint against Maryanne based on her status as a federal judge.  The complaint was referred to a judicial conduct council and, on February 1, the complainants were notified by a court official that their complaint was “receiving the full attention” of the Council.  On February 11, Maryanne, who had presumably heard of the Council’s response to the complainants, retired from the court. That produced a great result from her perspective.  Her retirement pay continues.  The investigation comes to a halt since the Council lacks jurisdiction over a retired judge. Maryanne was home free.

Meanwhile back at the farm, as it were, the Mueller report was the hot topic. Although subject to different reactions, depending on who the reactor was, there was one thing everyone agreed on.  So long as Maryanne’s brother remained in office, he could not be indicted for any criminal conduct, whether it was of the sort that Maryanne was involved with, or whether it pertained to obstruction of justice or anything else in the Mueller report. Here is how it all shakes out.

Maryanne avoided any embarrassment for what may have been her involvement in criminal conduct, by simply announcing her retirement from the Court. Her brother avoided any threat of adverse consequences from any criminal conduct in which he may have engaged, by not resigning from his position.  I’m sure the two siblings have gotten a good laugh over how that worked out. Too bad the rest of us don’t find it funny.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at For political commentary see his web page at