Jim Zarroli | KUOW News and Information

Jim Zarroli

Jim Zarroli is a business reporter for NPR News, based at NPR's New York bureau.

He covers economics and business news including fiscal policy, the Federal Reserve, the job market and taxes

Over the years, he's reported on recessions and booms, crashes and rallies, and a long string of tax dodgers, insider traders and Ponzi schemers. He's been heavily involved in the coverage of the European debt crisis and the bank bailouts in the United States.

Prior to moving into his current role, Zarroli served as a New York-based general assignment reporter for NPR News. While in this position he covered the United Nations during the first Gulf War. Zarroli added to NPR's coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the London transit bombings and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Before joining the NPR in 1996, Zarroli worked for the Pittsburgh Press and wrote for various print publications.

Zarroli graduated from Pennsylvania State University.

In ordinary times, New York-based Vornado Realty Trust would be a natural candidate to take on a major construction project such as the long-awaited rebuilding of FBI headquarters.

As with so much about the Trump era, however, the ordinary rules don't apply.

A commercial real estate firm, Vornado is widely reported to be a finalist to build a new campus for the FBI somewhere in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. But its financial ties to President Trump are raising concerns about conflicts of interest.

Although President Trump has had a troubl

Although President Trump has had a troubled relationship with big commercial lenders over the years, financial disclosure forms filed recently suggest he is still able to borrow money when he needs it.

While Trump's debts appear to be easily outweighed by his assets, government ethics experts say any sizable debt represents a potential conflict of interest for a president.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're getting another small clue about President Trump's overall financial picture after the president released some disclosure forms late last week. What did they say? Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

With an unusually public persona for a Russian businessman, Oleg Deripaska may be getting more attention than he bargained for because of his onetime ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Deripaska, a 49-year-old metals giant from Dzerzhinsk, not only appears occasionally on television to discuss business trends, he has his own website devoted to his career, his philanthropic interests and his commercial activities.

When a Bangladeshi factory building collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,100 people, big-name retailers from Europe and North America suddenly found themselves facing a crisis that threatened their carefully tended public images.

When Robert Mercer accepted a lifetime achievement award from a technology group in 2014, the Renaissance Technologies co-CEO summed up his career modestly.

"What I am is simply a computer programmer," he told the crowd.

In fact, both professionally and politically, Mercer is much more than that.

At 70, Mercer is an American success story, having helped turn Renaissance into one of the most profitable hedge funds in the world, and by all accounts becoming very rich in the process.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will donate a combined $100 million to a World Bank fund for women entrepreneurs that was the brainchild of Ivanka Trump.

The announcement by World Bank President Jim Young Kim came during a visit to Saudi Arabia by President Trump, who was accompanied by his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

For a young Donald Trump in the 1970s, the Grand Hyatt hotel on East 42nd Street was his first major development project, a chance to make a splash in the big-time world of New York City real estate.

Yet the glitzy glass-fronted hotel never would have been possible without an almost unprecedented 40-year tax abatement from the city, which was then recovering from a painful fiscal crisis.

Investigators looking into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia will be able to pursue leads by tapping into a huge database of suspicious financial transactions maintained by the federal government.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions operating in the U.S. are supposed to inform the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, when they see transactions that indicate possible money laundering, such as all-cash purchases of expensive real estate.

President Trump is preparing to overhaul the nation's tax code, and at least some of the coming changes could benefit his own bottom line. Critics say voters should be able to see just how much help the president might get from a revised tax code, so they are stepping up efforts to force him to share his tax returns.

Seeing the returns would reveal some key facts about the president's finances, says Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

Ordinary folks can fly from the Washington, D.C., area to southeast Florida for $200-300 round-trip, if they book in advance. For the president, the trip is a little more costly.

Exactly how much is not currently public, though. The conservative group Judicial Watch, which has been tracking the cost of presidential travel for several years, estimates that President Trump's frequent visits to his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago probably cost the government around $1 million each.

The Trump Organization is shutting down its New York-based modeling agency.

A statement released by the company said it was "choosing to exit the modeling industry."

"While we enjoyed many years of success, we are focussed on our core business in the real estate and golf industries and the rapid expansion of our hospitality division," the statement said.

Started in 1999, Trump Model Management was part of Trump's eclectic array of businesses, though it was never as visible as some of the others and didn't play a major role in the fashion business.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Angela Chen makes money hawking her ties to important people, running a consulting firm that helps companies connect with Asia's power players.

So it inevitably attracted notice when Chen spent nearly $16 million recently to buy a four-bedroom Park Avenue penthouse owned by President Trump himself.

The February deal, which was first reported by Mother Jones, underscores one of the problems posed by Trump's ongoing business interests.

Many people these days might be getting worked up about the fact that President Trump owns a lot of businesses. Not Chris Kinney.

"I think this country really needs to be run more like a business at this point," says the 51-year-old Lino Lakes, Minn., resident, a former business owner who fixes printers for a living. The United States faces a lot of serious problems, such as the growing federal deficit, and the fact that Trump brings a businessman's sensibility to solving them is a plus, Kinney says.

President Trump has made clear he doesn't like the alternative minimum tax, a complex federal levy that will hit some 4.8 million taxpayers this year.

A two-page tax return, filed by Trump for 2005 and revealed Tuesday, may suggest one reason. Because of the AMT, Trump was required to pay about $38 million in taxes on income of more than $150 million that year.

Without it, Trump's bill would have been a lot lower.

Donald Trump and his wife Melania earned about $150 million in 2005 and paid federal taxes of about $38 million, the White House said tonight.

The Trump administration made the revelation after copies of the tax returns anonymously were put in the mailbox of journalist David Cay Johnston.

The numbers have not been independently verified by NPR.

After purportedly stopping in at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's Palm Beach resort, not long ago, a visitor went straight to Google's online review site to complain about the restaurant ambience.

"Very loud and distracting dinner atmosphere," the visitor noted. "I just wanted a quiet peaceful meal, but White House staff and diplomats at the next table kept shouting out classified information."

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

With Congress showing no signs of taking action, a group of ethics watchdogs is turning to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to look into whether President Trump's many business interests violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway acted "inadvertently" when she urged shoppers to buy Ivanka Trump's products on Fox and Friends last month and won't make the same mistake again, the Trump administration says.

Reform groups in Mexico have been trying for years to persuade politicians to regularly disclose their assets and income, pointing to their northern neighbor as an example of a place where financial disclosure is the norm in government.

Then came President Trump, who has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns.

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. is recommending an investigation and possible disciplinary action be taken against Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Trump, for urging shoppers to buy fashion products sold by Trump's daughter Ivanka.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Trump, may have violated federal ethics rules Thursday when she urged shoppers to buy Ivanka Trump's retail brand, following the decision by several retail companies to drop the line because of poor sales.

"Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I was [saying] — I hate shopping and I'm going to go get some myself today," Conway said in an interview on Fox & Friends.

The Defense Department's plan to lease space in Manhattan's Trump Tower is already raising ethical concerns, with critics saying it would give the nation's chief executive another way to profit off his new role.

"It creates the appearance that President Trump, through his businesses, may directly benefit financially from charging the Department of Defense to do its job," says Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One, a nonprofit that works to remove money from politics.

President Trump's approval rating with voters may be the lowest on record for an incoming chief executive. But in one way at least, his popularity is improving a bit.

The value of Trump as a commercial brand, although still very low, has ticked up since August, according to the Reputation Institute, which measures the worth of various business brands.

Donald Trump's presidential campaign had many unusual aspects, not the least of which was the huge amount of money it funneled into Trump's own businesses.

And now there's a new twist: Such payments can continue indefinitely because he's already declared himself a candidate for re-election in 2020.

Leaders in the U.S. technology sector say President Trump's executive order banning immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries will sow confusion in their businesses and undercut the diversity that has been a linchpin of the industry's growth.

The CEOs of Google, Twitter, Facebook and Apple all issued statements condemning the ban and complaining that the order was pushed through so quickly it left great uncertainty about the status of some of their best employees.

President Trump's continued business dealings have generated plenty of teeth-gnashing about whether the occupant of the White House will be profiting off his new role.

The question is who has the "standing" to do anything about it?

Pages