This Matters, Although It’s Not the Only Thing

From Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

“Wednesday’s Democratic debate was far more informative than previous debates. What we learned, in particular, was that as a presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg is a great businessman — and that Elizabeth Warren remains a force to be reckoned with.

Both lessons ran very much counter to the narrative that the news media has been telling in recent weeks. On one side, there has been a palpable eagerness on the part of some news organizations and many pundits to elevate Bloomberg; on the other side, complaints by Warren supporters about her “erasure” from news coverage and polling aren’t wrong.

What does all this mean for the nomination? I have no idea. But maybe the Warren-Bloomberg confrontation will help refocus discussion away from so-called Medicare for all — which isn’t going to be enacted, no matter who wins — to an issue where it matters a lot which Democrat prevails. Namely, are we going to do anything to rein in the financialization of the U.S. economy?

During the U.S. economy’s greatest generation — the era of rapid, broadly shared growth that followed World War II — Wall Street was a fairly peripheral part of the picture. When people thought about business leaders, they thought about people running companies that actually made things, not people who got rich through wheeling and dealing.

But that all changed in the 1980s, largely thanks to financial deregulation. Suddenly the big bucks came from buying and selling companies as opposed to running them.

In many cases, these financial deals saddled companies with crippling levels of debt, often ending in bankruptcy and job destruction — a process that continues to this day. There was also an epidemic of financial fraud and racketeering, exemplified by the career of Michael Milken, the junk-bond king Donald Trump just pardoned.

And the financial sector itself doubled as a share of the economy, which meant that it was pulling lots of capital and many smart people away from productive activities.

For there is no evidence that Wall Street’s mega-expansion made the rest of the economy more efficient. On the contrary, growth in family incomes slowed down as finance rose — although a few people became immensely rich. And the runaway growth of finance set the stage for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

It also made Michael Bloomberg a billionaire.

Now, I wasn’t being sarcastic in calling Bloomberg a great businessman. He is. And to his credit, he himself hasn’t, as far as I know, engaged in destructive financial wheeling and dealing. Instead, he got rich by selling equipment to destructive wheeler-dealers.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the famous Bloomberg Terminal, a proprietary computer system that gives subscribers real-time access to large quantities of financial data. This access is incredibly expensive — a subscription costs around $24,000 a year. But it’s a must-have in the financial industry, because traders with Bloomberg Terminals can react to market events a few minutes faster than those without.

It’s an extremely profitable business. But is it good for the economy? No.

After all, does getting financial information a few minutes earlier do anything significant to improve real-world business decisions that affect jobs and productivity? Surely not. Bloomberg has, in effect, made his billions off a financial arms race that costs vast sums but leaves everyone pretty much back where they started.

Which brings me to Elizabeth Warren.

Warren stumbled badly, making herself a long shot for the nomination, by trying to appease supporters of Bernie Sanders. She endorsed proposals for radical health care reform that have almost no chance of becoming reality, and she was raked over the coals about paying for those proposals even though Sanders himself has offered few clues about his own plans.

But before all that, Warren had made a name for herself as a crusader against financial industry fraud and excess.

It wasn’t just talk. One key piece of the reforms instituted after the 2008 financial crisis, the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was Warren’s brainchild. Furthermore, by all accounts the bureau was wildly successful, saving ordinary families billions, until the Trump administration set about eviscerating it.

And here’s the thing: Financial reform, unlike health care, is an area in which it might make a big difference which Democrat becomes president. It’s true that other candidates — including Bloomberg! — have endorsed Warren-type reforms. But it is, I think, fair to ask how committed they would be in practice, and also whether they would squander their political capital on unwinnable fights, which is my big concern about Sanders.

Again, aside from the clear damage to Bloomberg, I have no idea how or if Wednesday’s debate will affect the Democratic race. But it may have helped remind Democrats that corruption, fraud and the excesses of Wall Street in particular can be potent political issues — especially against a president who is both personally corrupt and so obviously a friend to fraudsters.”

Unquote.

The title of Professor Krugman’s column is “Warren, Bloomberg and What Really Matters”. I’m sure he’d agree that issues like climate change and poverty really matter too, but he makes an excellent point that relates to Warren’s fundamental message: we will only make progress on things that really matter if we make our democracy stronger and address the corruption in Washington.

Those were the goals of the first bill the House Democrats passed in 2019, H. R. 1, a bill “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics and strengthen ethics rules for public servants”. They are also the goals at the top of the list of plans on Warren’s site: “End Washington corruption and fix our democracy”.

Little will get done unless we fix and enforce the rules. After we elect enough people who want to.

The House Begins To Present Its Case

This afternoon, members of the House of Representatives submitted a Trial Memorandum “in re [the] impeachment of President D—– J. T—–“. It summarizes the case for the prosecution in the president’s Senate trial. (The president’s lawyers are supposed to submit their response before noon on Monday.)

In theory, all 100 senators will read the prosecution’s memorandum before the trial starts next week. You can read it, even if they don’t (all 111 pages).

There is an eight-page introduction. Here’s how it begins:

President D—– J. T—– used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain, and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct. The Constitution provides a remedy when the President commits such serious abuses of his office: impeachment and removal. The Senate must use that remedy now to safeguard the 2020 U.S. election, protect our constitutional form of government, and eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security.

The House adopted two Articles of Impeachment against President T—–: the first for abuse of power, and the second for obstruction of Congress. The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths.

There follows a section describing the president’s abuse of power (the first article of impeachment), when he illegally delayed military aid to Ukraine in order to get the Ukrainian government to publicize (not necessarily to carry out) a criminal investigation into Joe Biden, one of the Democrats’ leading candidates for president, and Biden’s son:

President T—–’s solicitation of foreign interference in our elections to secure his own political success is precisely why the Framers of our Constitution provided Congress with the power to impeach a corrupt President and remove him from office. One of the Founding generation’s principal fears was that foreign governments would seek to manipulate American elections…. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams warned of “foreign Interference, Intrigue, Influence” and predicted that, “as often as Elections happen, the danger of foreign Influence recurs.”

The Framers therefore would have considered a President’s attempt to corrupt America’s democratic processes by demanding political favors from foreign powers to be a singularly pernicious act. They designed impeachment as the remedy for such misconduct because a President who manipulates U.S. elections to his advantage can avoid being held accountable by the voters through those same elections. And they would have viewed a President’s efforts to encourage foreign election interference as all the more dangerous where, as here, those efforts are part of an ongoing pattern of misconduct for which the President is unrepentant.

Then there is a section concerning the president’s obstruction of Congress (the second article of impeachment), his interference in the House’s investigation of the president’s apparent abuse of power:

President T—– obstructed Congress by undertaking an unprecedented campaign to prevent House Committees from investigating his misconduct. The Constitution entrusts the House with the “sole Power of Impeachment.” The Framers thus ensured what common sense requires—that the House, and not the President, determines the existence, scope, and procedures of an impeachment investigation into the President’s conduct. The House cannot conduct such an investigation effectively if it cannot obtain information from the President or the Executive Branch about the Presidential misconduct it is investigating.

Under our constitutional system of divided powers, a President cannot be permitted to hide his offenses from view by refusing to comply with a Congressional impeachment inquiry and ordering Executive Branch agencies to do the same. That conclusion is particularly important given the Department of Justice’s position that the President cannot be indicted. If the President could both avoid accountability under the criminal laws and preclude an effective impeachment investigation, he would truly be above the law.

But that is what President T—– has attempted to do, and why President T—–’s conduct is the Framers’ worst nightmare. He directed his Administration to defy every subpoena issued in the House’s impeachment investigation. At his direction, the White House, Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) refused to produce a single document in response to those subpoenas. Several witnesses also followed President T—–’s orders, defying requests for voluntary appearances and lawful subpoenas, and refusing to testify. And President T—–’s interference in the House’s impeachment inquiry was not an isolated incident—it was consistent with his past efforts to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Introduction ends with a brief summary:

…. The impeachment power is an essential check on the authority of the President, and Congress must exercise this power when the President places his personal and political interests above those of the Nation. President T—– has done exactly that. His misconduct challenges the fundamental principle that Americans should decide American elections, and that a divided system of government, in which no single branch operates without the check and balance of the others, preserves the liberty we all hold dear.

The country is watching to see how the Senate responds. History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution. The outcome of these proceedings will determine whether generations to come will enjoy a safe and secure democracy in which the President is not a king, and in which no one, particularly the President, is above the law.

The House memorandum then goes into greater detail concerning the rationale for impeaching and removing the president. It concludes with 61 pages of “material facts”, i.e. the evidence for his removal.

If D—– J. T—– were simply a mob boss or a corrupt businessman (him? are you kidding?) on trial for bribery or obstruction of justice, and members of the Senate were serving on the jury, each one of them would convict the defendant, D—– J. T—–, without a second thought. That especially holds for the Republicans, who still fancy themselves Congress’s strongest proponents of “law and order”. The prosecution’s case is overwhelming. And the verdict in this trial doesn’t even have to be unanimous! Sixty-seven out of 100 senators can throw the bum out.

But here it’s as if most of the jurors are the defendant’s underlings, fearful of his power and willing to protect him no matter what. The men who wrote the Constitution imagined a corrupt president, but they couldn’t have imagined most of the Senate being corrupt too. They assumed most senators, if not all, would take their oaths to uphold the Constitution quite seriously.

Soon we’ll know if Jefferson and Adams, Hamilton, Franklin and Washington, got the future very, very wrong.

It’s Not Over At All

From attorney George Conway:

Attorney General William Barr’s letter revealed something unexpected about the obstruction issue: that Mueller said his “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime” but that “it also does not exonerate him.” The report does not exonerate the president? That’s a stunning thing for a prosecutor to say. Mueller didn’t have to say that. Indeed, making that very point, the president’s outside counsel, Rudolph W. Giuliani, called the statement a “cheap shot.”

But Mueller isn’t prone to cheap shots; he plays by the rules, every step of the way. If his report doesn’t exonerate the president, there must be something pretty damning in it about him, even if it might not suffice to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. And in saying that the report “catalogu[ed] the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view,” Barr’s letter makes clear that the report also catalogues actions taken privately that shed light on possible obstruction, actions that the American people and Congress yet know nothing about.

At the same time, and equally remarkably, Mueller, according to Barr, said he “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” regarding obstruction. Reading that statement together with the no-exoneration statement, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mueller wrote his report to allow the American people and Congress to decide what to make of the facts. And that is what should — must — happen now.

From columnist Greg Sargent:

One glaring analytical error we’re seeing in the coverage of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings is the idea that we’re suddenly in a “post-Mueller” political world. The suggestion is that there’s been a sudden, clean break from a rapidly receding past in which the special counsel’s activity threatened President Trump, to a new future in which it does not.

The reality is quite different. In fact, while Mueller’s no-conspiracy finding does close one chapter of this affair, the Mueller probe and its spinoffs added substantial new material to the building case against Trump’s corruption, and they have spawned other investigations that will keep that process moving forward….

Because of all these investigations and their consequences, Trump has been implicated in a criminal hush-money scheme…  We have also learned from Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen that Trump may have gamed his assets for insurance and tax fraud purposes — and that clues to these potential crimes may lie in his tax returns. Cohen also says those returns might shed light on his family’s extensive history of tax fraud.

All that has led to a plethora of other investigations into multiple Trump organizations, which largely grew out of the Mueller investigation. Some of what we learned has created new avenues of inquiry for House Democrats, who are looking into everything from Trump’s role in the hush-money scheme, to whether Trump’s lawyers coached Cohen to lie to Congress about his Moscow project, to his financial entanglements with Russia…. 

Given that the White House is resisting all Democratic subpoena requests — something that we should remember in tandem with likely Trump efforts to keep Mueller’s findings buried — it’s hard to say where all this will end up. But one thing that’s clear is that the focus on Trump’s corruption will continue to intensify and broaden.

The emerging narrative is that demoralized Democrats are debating how to “move on” from Mueller. But Democrats don’t have to get drawn into that debate. That’s because the Mueller probe and its spinoffs have actually made the political terrain a lot more fertile for the focus on Trump’s corruption than before. And the ongoing ripple effects of those investigations will continue to do so.

For example, in one development today:

House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings has requested ten years of documents related to President Donald Trump’s past financial dealings….

The request comes after testimony from Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, raised questions as to whether Trump inflated or deflated the value of his financial assets during the course of past business transactions….Cohen said that Trump would inflate his total assets in order to obtain more favorable treatment from banks (in addition to deflating his assets in order to reduce his tax burden).

In his letter to [tax and accounting firm] Mazars LLP, Cummings requested “all statements of financial condition, annual statements, periodic financial reports and independent auditors’ reports.” He also asked for “all engagement agreements or contracts related to the preparation, compilation, review, or auditing of the items” used to determine Trump’s net worth—specific, it appears, to his use of brand value to inflate that net worth. 

And this:

The head of the House Intelligence committee wants to know if [the completion of the Special Counsel’s inquiry into potential criminal conspiracy regarding Russia] means the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the same question has also concluded.

Rep. Adam Schiff [announced] that he’s begun negotiations with the intelligence agencies to get an answer to one of the many unknowns about the Mueller probe currently hidden behind the veil of Attorney General William Barr’s letter on Sunday purporting to summarize it.

“At this point, we don’t know whether any of the counterintelligence findings are part of the Mueller report,” Schiff said. “We have initiated discussions with the intelligence community to make sure that we obtain whatever is found in the counterintelligence investigation, or whether that [inquiry] is still ongoing.”

In January, The New York Times, citing in part the FBI’s former top lawyer, James Baker, reported that the bureau opened a counterintelligence inquiry into Trump’s ties to Russia in May 2017 after the president fired Director James Comey, who was then in charge of the overall Russia probe. Mueller, soon empaneled as special counsel, inherited that investigation.

Current and former FBI and Justice Department officials have characterized a counterintelligence probe into a sitting president—with its implication that the president, wittingly or not, posed a threat to national security — as unprecedented…. 

The bureau’s counterintelligence investigations seek to understand the surreptitious activities of a foreign power and their possible connections to Americans. Since their objectives are not necessarily to bring charges, their standards of evidence are well below those of criminal inquiries. It is possible that Mueller closed the counterintelligence inquiry, and it is possible that Mueller passed it back to the FBI. Schiff wants to know either way.

The Corruption of the Republican Party, Minus 400 Words

An internet person said: if you’re going to read one article this week, it should be “The Corruption of the Republican Party” by the American journalist and author George Packer. Of the article’s 2,100 words, I think the 1,700 below are the most important.

Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt? The reason is historical—it goes back many decades—and, in a way, philosophical. The party is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.

I don’t mean the kind of corruption that regularly sends lowlifes … to prison. Those abuses are nonpartisan and always with us. So is vote theft of the kind we’ve just seen in North Carolina…

And I don’t just mean that the Republican Party is led by the boss of a kleptocratic family business who presides over a scandal-ridden administration, that many of his closest advisers are facing prison time, that Donald Trump himself might have to stay in office just to avoid prosecution…

The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means…. it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, a representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries. But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.

Republican majorities are rushing to pass laws that strip away the legitimate powers of newly elected Democratic governors while defeated or outgoing Republican incumbents are still around to sign the bills. Even if the courts overturn some of these power grabs, as they have in North Carolina, Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results. Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin…, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.

The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.

Today’s Republican Party has cornered itself with a base of ever older, whiter, more male, more rural, more conservative voters…. They could have tried to expand; instead, they’ve hardened and walled themselves off. This is why, while voter fraud knows no party, only the Republican Party wildly overstates the risk so that it can pass laws (including right now in Wisconsin, with a bill that reduces early voting) to limit the franchise in ways that have a disparate partisan impact. This is why, when some Democrats in the New Jersey legislature proposed to enshrine gerrymandering in the state constitution, other Democrats, in New Jersey and around the country, objected [and the proposal was withdrawn].

Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.

Republicans have chosen contraction and authoritarianism because, unlike the Democrats, their party isn’t a coalition of interests in search of a majority. Its character is ideological. The Republican Party we know is a product of the modern conservative movement, and that movement is a series of insurgencies against the established order. Several of its intellectual founders … were shaped early on by Communist ideology and practice, and their Manichean thinking, their conviction that the salvation of Western civilization depended on the devoted work of a small group of illuminati, marked the movement at its birth.

The first insurgency was the nomination of Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. He campaigned as a rebel against the postwar American consensus and the soft middle of his own party’s leadership. Goldwater didn’t use the standard, reassuring lexicon of the big tent and the mainstream. At the San Francisco convention, he embraced extremism and denounced the Republican establishment, whose “moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” His campaign lit a fire of excitement that spread to millions of readers through the pages of two self-published prophesies of the apocalypse, Phyllis Schlafly’s A Choice Not an Echo and John A. Stormer’s None Dare Call It Treason. According to these mega-sellers, the political opposition wasn’t just wrong—it was a sinister conspiracy with totalitarian goals…

The insurgents were agents of history, and history was long. To avoid despair, they needed the clarity that only ideology (“the truth”) can give. The task in 1964 was to recruit and train conservative followers… Established institutions that concealed the truth—schools, universities, newspapers, the Republican Party itself—would have to be swept away and replaced or entered and cleansed…  these were not the words and ideas of democratic politics, with its ungainly coalitions and unsatisfying compromises.

During this first insurgency, the abiding contours of the movement took shape… Conservatives nursed a victim’s sense of grievance—the system was stacked against them, cabals of the powerful were determined to lock them out—and they showed more energetic interest than their opponents in the means of gaining power: mass media, new techniques of organizing, rhetoric, ideas. Finally, the movement was founded in the politics of racism. Goldwater’s strongest support came from white southerners reacting against civil rights…. Modern conservatism would never stop flirting with hostility toward whole groups of Americans. And from the start this stance opened the movement to extreme, sometimes violent fellow travelers.

It took only 16 years, with the election of Ronald Reagan, for the movement and party to merge. During those years, conservatives hammered away at institutional structures, denouncing the established ones for their treacherous liberalism, and building alternatives, in the form of well-funded right-wing foundations, think tanks, business lobbies, legal groups, magazines, publishers, professorships. When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the products of this “counter-establishment” … were ready to take power.

Reagan commanded a revolution, but he himself didn’t have a revolutionary character. He didn’t think the public needed to be indoctrinated and organized, only heard.

But conservatism remained an insurgent politics during the 1980s and ’90s, and the more power it amassed—in government, business, law, media—the more it set itself against the fragile web of established norms and delighted in breaking them. The second insurgency was led by Newt Gingrich, who had come to Congress two years before Reagan became president, with the avowed aim of overthrowing the established Republican leadership and shaping the minority party into a fighting force that could break Democratic rule by shattering what he called the “corrupt left-wing machine.” Gingrich liked to quote Mao’s definition of politics as “war without blood.” He made audiotapes that taught Republican candidates how to demonize the opposition with labels such as “disgrace,” “betray,” and  “traitors.” When he became speaker of the House, at the head of yet another revolution, Gingrich announced, “There will be no compromise.” How could there be, when he was leading a crusade to save American civilization from its liberal enemies?

Even after Gingrich was driven from power, … he regularly churned out books that warned of imminent doom—unless America turned to a leader like him (he once called himself “teacher of the rules of civilization,” among other exalted epithets). Unlike Goldwater and Reagan, Gingrich never had any deeply felt ideology. It was hard to say exactly what “American civilization” meant to him. What he wanted was power, and what he most obviously enjoyed was smashing things to pieces in its pursuit. His insurgency started the conservative movement on the path to nihilism.

The party purged itself of most remaining moderates, growing ever-more shallow as it grew ever-more conservative… Jeff Flake, the outgoing senator from Arizona, … describes this deterioration as “a race to the bottom to see who can be meaner and madder and crazier. It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” The viciousness doesn’t necessarily reside in the individual souls of Republican leaders. It flows from the party’s politics, which seeks to delegitimize opponents and institutions, purify the ranks through purges and coups, and agitate followers with visions of apocalypse—all in the name of an ideological cause that every year loses integrity as it becomes indistinguishable from power itself.

The third insurgency came in reaction to the election of Barack Obama—it was the Tea Party. Eight years later, it culminated in Trump’s victory… In the third insurgency, the features of the original movement surfaced again, more grotesque than ever: paranoia and conspiracy thinking; racism and other types of hostility toward entire groups; innuendos and incidents of violence. The new leader is like his authoritarian counterparts abroad: illiberal, demagogic, hostile to institutional checks, demanding and receiving complete acquiescence from the party, and enmeshed in the financial corruption that is integral to the political corruption of these regimes. Once again, liberals … couldn’t grasp how it happened. Neither could some conservatives who still believed in democracy.

The corruption of the Republican Party in the Trump era seemed to set in with breathtaking speed. In fact, it took more than a half century to reach the point where faced with a choice between democracy and power, the party chose the latter. Its leaders don’t see a dilemma—democratic principles turn out to be disposable tools, sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient. The higher cause is conservatism, but the highest is power. After Wisconsin Democrats swept statewide offices last month, Robin Vos, speaker of the assembly, explained why Republicans would have to get rid of the old rules: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

As Bertolt Brecht wrote of East Germany’s ruling party:

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Good News for a Change (We May Have Finally Hit Bottom)

Maybe it was the insane spectacle of a TV morning show host much more interested in Hillary Clinton’s emails than 100 other possible topics during a nationally broadcast interview that was supposed to deal with national security and who should command the most powerful military in the world. Maybe it was the realization that her dangerously unqualified opponent might win in November if the media keeps treating him as if he’s a normal candidate and a normal person.

But the editorial board of the influential Washington Post finally concluded that “the Hillary Clinton email story is out of control”. The editorial is here.

Of course, so is the Clinton Foundation story. Although the Clinton Foundation presents the possibility of conflicts of interest, the Trump Foundation is a scheme by which Trump takes credit for giving away other people’s money and uses “charitable contributions” to buy crap for himself and operate a political slush fund.  A Washington Post reporter, David Fahrenthold, has been telling that story in articles like thisthisthis and this. A representative quote:

For months, The Washington Post has been looking for evidence to back up a key claim Donald Trump makes about himself: that, in recent years, he has given millions of dollars to charity out of his own pocket. There is no evidence of that in the files of Trump’s nonprofit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. And Trump has not released his tax returns, which would detail his recent charitable giving.

In an effort to find proof of Trump’s personal giving, The Post has contacted more than 250 charities with some ties to the GOP nominee….

So far, The Post‘s search has turned up little. Between 2008 and this May [2016] — when Trump made good on a pledge to give $1 million to a veterans’ group — its search has identified just one personal gift from Trump’s own pocket.

If you have any information about a charitable gift given by Donald Trump, please email fahrenthold@washpost.com.