Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's The Rot At The Core
Mother Jones|July/August 2019

We’re launching a new reporting project.

Monika Bauerlein And Clara Jeffery

There’s an infamous saying often attributed to Josef Stalin: One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. In the Trump administration, you might say: One scandal is an outrage, a million scandals is the new normal.

That’s something we’re thinking about as we work on how Mother Jones can most effectively cover the critical 16 months ahead. What do you, our readers, need us to do to get beyond the day-to-day crazy and show the full picture? Where can our work have the most impact?

There’s an idea we keep coming back to, and to illustrate it, we wanted to open the box a bit about the way MoJo journalists work. Rewind for a minute to early March. Amid the buzz and speculation about the impending Mueller report, the Miami Herald broke a story involving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who had been charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor. It turned out the former owner of the parlor, Cindy Yang, had watched the Super Bowl with Trump at a party in West Palm Beach. (Yang has since sued the Herald, claiming the story implied she owned the parlor at the time of the alleged solicitation. The paper stands by its reporting.)

The story didn’t make a huge splash, but in Mother Jones’ Washington, DC, bureau, ears perked up. When wealthy donors and politicians hobnob, there’s usually more to the story—especially when Trump’s involved. But the team didn’t want to just repeat what had been reported elsewhere. They set out to verify the key facts for themselves. Reporter Dan Friedman, who covers foreign influence (thanks to the reader support we received for this beat last year), dialed up every phone number he could find for Yang’s businesses and home to get her side of the story, to no avail. Deputy Bureau Chief Daniel Schulman and senior reporter Stephanie Mencimer started digging into Florida business records. And news and engagement editor Inae Oh scoured Yang’s social media posts and found a collection of selfies with top Republicans: Yang with Trump, with Donald Trump Jr., with Sarah Palin; with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz; and on and on.

Soon Schulman discovered something else: On the website of another company registered to Yang, called GY US Investments, was what looked like an invitation to a Mar-a-Lago event featuring Trump’s sister Elizabeth Trump Grau. With some more digging (and translation help) the picture came into focus: Yang was marketing access to the president and his family at highroller gop events and Mar-a-Lago shindigs to Chinese executives.

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