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Trump Says He Refused to Answer Questions in New York AG’s Probe of Business

Rebekah Fuller



Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil investigation on August 10, 2022 in New York City.
James Devaney | Gc Images | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump said he refused to answer questions Wednesday at a deposition by investigators for New York Attorney General Letitia James as part of her civil probe into his business.

Trump announced he had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against making self-incriminating statements shortly after arriving for his scheduled, court-ordered interview under oath at James’ offices in New York City.

“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” Trump said in a furious statement that railed against James as a renegade prosecutor with a vendetta against him.

“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” Trump said.

“Accordingly, under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” he said.

A spokeswoman for James did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s move.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge in his February ruling ordering Trump and two of his adult children to submit to questioning noted they would “have the right to refuse to answer any questions that they claim might incriminate them, and that refusal may not be commented on or used against them in a criminal prosecution.”

“However, there is no unfairness in allowing the jurors in a civil case to know these refusals and to draw their own conclusions,” Judge Arthur Engoron wrote. He cited a prior New York court decision that said: “a negative inference may be drawn in the civil context when a party invokes that right against self-incrimination.”

Trump’s deposition came two days after the FBI, in an unrelated criminal investigation, raided his home at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, and seized what his attorney has said were about a dozen boxes of documents.

That search was related to an ongoing investigation into whether laws were broken when boxes of White House records — which included some documents marked as classified — ended up at Mar-a-Lago instead of the National Archives.

Former US President Donald Trump waves while walking to a vehicle in New York City on August 10, 2022. Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to answer questions under oath in New York over alleged fraud at his family business, as legal pressures pile up for the former president whose house was raided by the FBI just two days ago.
Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

James’ investigation, however, is focused on allegations that the Trump Organization improperly reported the stated valuations of some of its real estate assets for financial gain.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the pending probes involving him.

Trump said he decided he had “absolutely no choice” but to plead the Fifth in James’ deposition following the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago “because the current Administration and many prosecutors in this Country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency.”

In a post on his social media platform early Wednesday, he also accused James, who is Black, of being “racist,” a charge he has also previously leveled at her and two other Black prosecutors who are separately investigating him.

Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump, for months had resisted complying with subpoenas from James demanding their testimony under oath for her probe.

But after failing in court efforts to block those subpoenas, Donald Jr. and Ivanka answered questions from James’ investigators last week.

Neither Donald Trump Jr. nor his sister Ivanka Trump invoked their Fifth Amendment right when they were questioned last week by James’ investigators, NBC has previously reported.

But Eric Trump, who runs the Trump Organization with Donald Jr., invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 500 times when he was questioned under oath in the probe in October 2020, according to a court filing from January. Ivanka Trump is a former Trump Organization executive, who served as a senior White House advisor during her father’s administration.

While campaigning for president in 2016, Trump in a speech in Iowa blasted some staffers for his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for themselves invoking the Fifth Amendment when they were questioned by a select House committee investigating the attack on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

“So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment. Like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Trump asked at that time.

Monday’s raid sparked a political firestorm, with Republicans harshly criticizing the FBI — which is led by Director Chris Wray, a Trump appointee — and demanding answers from Attorney General Merrick Garland, a nominee of President Joe Biden.

The Department of Justice has not revealed details about the search warrant that the FBI executed.

Legal experts say Trump’s lawyers are in possession of a copy of that search warrant, and, if they wanted could disclose its contents. The warrant and a related affidavit in support of it would detail what the FBI was looking for, and how the agency believed there was probable cause that a crime or crimes had been committed that related to that evidence.

But Trump’s team does not plan to release a copy of the warrant, a source close to Trump told NBC News.

Trump and his family and business are the focus of multiple active investigations at the state and federal level.

In addition to the probe of records at Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department is reportedly investigating events leading to the Capitol riot.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office last year charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer with a criminal scheme to evade taxes in compensation paid to executives.

In Georgia, a special state grand jury is investigating possible criminal efforts by Trump and others to meddle in that state’s presidential election in 2020 as part of a nationwide push to overturn Biden’s victory in the race for the White House.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld a lower court ruling dismissing an effort by Trump to block the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining several years of his federal income tax returns and those of a number of Trump business entities from the Treasury Department.

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Investor Sarat Sethi Is Finding Buying Opportunities in Cheap Stocks That Just Reported Earnings

Rebekah Fuller



Corporations are in the thick of earnings season this week and, while reports are mixed, there are good opportunities in some of them for investors, according to Sarat Sethi, portfolio manager at Douglas C. Lane & Associates. Boeing and AT & T are among the big names that posted their numbers Wednesday, following Microsoft, which reported late Tuesday. Going by profit numbers alone, Boeing posted the bleakest report of the three, including a loss for the fourth quarter as labor and supply strains overshadowed an increase in jet demand. “They’ve been supply constrained for a while so I do think it’s an interesting story and the stock is getting punished a little bit, but their demand going forward for travel is getting pretty big,” Sethi said of Boeing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday morning. “The cheaper it gets, for us, the better we like the story.” Sethi, who doesn’t currently own Boeing, also noted the airplane builder was cash flow positive for the first time “in a long time” and he’s eager to see if it can meet its demand and push operating margins higher. Elsewhere, AT & T’s report showed an increase in subscribers, but the company forecasted annual profit below analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv. Still, the investors are looking for companies that, like AT & T, are cheap and will grow cash flow and income, Sethi said. “AT & T is a cheap stock, so is Verizon. … The market is looking to see who has the proper valuation at this point, given where we are with the discount rate,” he said. “That’s going to be really important for our earnings going forward.” “One of the things that we need to watch for now is – companies cannot grow by acquisition, the government is now allowing it,” he added. “That is really tough for companies especially [with] interest rates going up. You have to focus on your customer base, organic growth and what you have given valuation metrics people have.” Those may be better opportunities than a stock like Microsoft, which reported mixed results Tuesday after the bell. The company also said it expects could revenue growth to further slow down. Sethi didn’t say whether he’d sell his shares but that he’s “looking at it very carefully.” “There are going to be other opportunities there,” he said. “I don’t know I would own it in the size that it is in the market. I like the company, there are a lot of attributes – cashflow positive, a lot of recurring revenue. But I think you can look for other opportunities, especially if it’s a sizable position.”Read More


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Tesla Reports Earnings After the Bell Wednesday

Rebekah Fuller



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Hong Kong, China, 13 Sept 2022, A red Tesla car passes in front of a Tesla dealership in Wanchai. (Photo by Marc Fernandes/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Electric vehicle maker Tesla plans to report fourth-quarter results after market close on Wednesday.

Here’s what analysts were expecting as of Wednesday morning, according to Refinitiv:

Earnings (adjusted): $1.13 per shareRevenue: $24.16 billion

In the year-ago quarter, Tesla reported revenue of $17.72 billion and adjusted earnings of $2.52 per share.

Earlier this month, Teslavehicle delivery and production numbers for the fourth quarter of 2022 that set a new record for the company, but fell shy of the company’s goals and analysts’ expectations, despite having cut prices on its cars in December to spur customers to take deliveries before the year’s end.

Tesla reported 405,278 vehicle deliveries and production of 439,701 vehicles in the period ending December 31, 2022. Full year deliveries amounted to around 1.31 million, a record for Tesla, after the company started production at its new factories in Austin, Texas, and Brandenburg, Germany.

Last year, Musk said the factories were akin to “money-burning furnaces” in an interview with an owners’ club posted to YouTube in June.

So far in 2023, Tesla has continued to cut prices on its cars around the world, upsetting customers in the US and China who recently bought new Teslas at higher prices, and triggering an instant decline in used Tesla prices in the US as well.

Tesla solicits questions ahead of their earnings calls via a site called from both retail and institutional investors.

Among other things, investors on that site say they want to know what the recent price cuts will do to Tesla’s automotive gross margins, how much the company expects to grow sales of its cars in 2023, and when Tesla plans to start mass production and deliveries of its long-delayed, sci-fi inspired, pickup truck the Cybertruck.

Throughout the fourth quarter of 2022, shareholders also sought answers from Tesla and Elon Musk about his intentions at the automaker as the price of Tesla shares declined. Tesla’s share price has dropped more than 40% over the past six months.

Musk is currently splitting his time, attention and resources between Tesla, SpaceX, the defense contractor where he is CEO, and Twitter, the social media business he recently acquired.

The celebrity CEO sold billions of dollars worth of his Tesla holdings last year, including $3.6 billion in the fourth quarter, in part to finance the Twitter deal, which closed in late October 2022. He immediately appointed himself “Chief Twit,” and CEO there.

Since taking over Twitter, he has made sweeping changes to the business and the service, including allowing people who had been permanently suspended from the platform to come back online.

Musk’s moves at Twitter, and his political statements on the social media platform, have correlated with a sharp decline in Musk’s and Tesla’s reputation, especially among liberal- to very liberal-leaning people in the US, according to research by YouGov shared with CNBC.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Southwest CEO Maps Out a Recovery After Holiday Meltdown: ‘We Have Work to Do’

Rebekah Fuller



In this article


A Southwest Airlines traveler looks for her baggage in a pile of lost suitcases after an arctic blast and a massive winter storm dubbed Elliott swept over much of the United States in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday weekend, at Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, December 27, 2022.
Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters

Southwestmeltdown derailed the travel plans of millions, is clear: “I can’t say it enough. We messed up.”

His focus now is ensuring a similar crisis never happens again. The airline has hired consulting firm Oliver Wyman to review its processes, interview staff and union members, lay out what went wrong, and how to avoid it in the future. The low-cost airline is working with General Electric

The event was jarring for many travelers used to Southwest customer service, which includes policies like free checked bags, a rarity for domestic U.S. travel. Lawmakers and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said they want to look further into the disruptions.

Less a year into the airline’s top job, in the aftermath of travel chaos he hadn’t seen in his more than three decades at Southwest, Jordan is now tasked with making things right with passengers and employees.

“We took good will out of the bank. We know that,” Jordan said in an interview earlier this month. “We have work to do to repair trust, but our customers are very loyal and we’re seeing that loyalty.”

Southwest said it offered premium pay to flight attendants and $45 million in “gratitude pay” to pilots because of the meltdown. Both groups have warned about inadequate technology and scheduling for years.

The carrier has also handed out 25,000 Rapid Rewards points each, which the company estimates at a roughly $300 value, to about 2 million people who had flights booked over the chaotic holiday period, Jordan said.

He said that a recent fare sale was successful and that many customers are redeeming the frequently flyer points for Southwest flights.

Southwest said the chaos will likely mean a hit of between $725 million and $825 million to its pretax results and a rare quarterly loss. Executives will face questions from analysts and reporters when the carrier reports results, scheduled for Thursday morning.

Cascading cancellations

Southwest said it canceled about 16,700 flights between Dec. 21 through Dec. 31, a tally that swelled after it failed to recover from severe winter weather that crippled travel across the country, stabilizing days later. Airline executives had expected it to be the busiest travel period since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Hydraulic fluid turned so thick in the brutal cold that jet bridges couldn’t move. Snow and high winds suspended operations at airports across the country. Airplane engines iced over.

Most airlines had largely recovered from the bad weather by Christmas Day, but Southwest’s problems worsened when crews had to call in to get new assignments or hotel rooms, causing a backup.

The carrier’s aircraft and crews were left out of place and at the mercy of crew scheduling systems that were designed to handle current or future flight disruptions, not a pileup of flight changes in the past.

“We needed a larger answer to reset the network,” Jordan said. “That was basically pulling the schedule down.”

Southwest flew around just a third of its planned schedule for several days after Christmas to get crews and planes where they needed to go.

“The GE Digital tool that is integrated into Southwest’s systems performed as designed throughout the event, and we are working with them to define new functionality as they improve their crew rescheduling capability,” a GE spokesman said Tuesday.

Still, scheduling chaos after bad weather isn’t new for the airline industry. JetBluenew carrier in the U.S., called Breeze Airways.)

Southwest itself had a smaller-scale cascade of flight disruptions in October 2021 that cost it around $75 million. Months earlier, Spirit Airlines$50 million hit from mass disruptions.

“Every airline has its fall, and from that they rise with new perspectives,” said Samuel Engel, a senior vice president at consulting firm ICF. “The airline reaches a certain point of complexity and has a disruption event of such scale that it causes them to look deep inside.”

Both Spirit and Southwest operate so-called point-to-point networks that don’t rely on hubs, like larger airlines, and instead have planes hopscotching around the country. The model generally works and helps keep costs down, but it can compound disruptions during extreme events.

Jordan defended the model and said the network is usually easier to recover because travelers don’t have to rely on connections to get to their destinations.

“The issue here wasn’t the network, the issue was how many places got hit with weather and how many cancellations that drove, basically continuously,” he said.

Making amends

Even those travelers burned by an airline in an event like this one face few alternatives when booking airline tickets and are often focused on price and schedule, ICF’s Engel said.

Southwest, UnitedDeltaAmerican

“Customers just consistently choose their flights based on fare and schedule,” he said. “As they’re going through a disrupted trip they’ll say ‘never again’ — and then they do.”

Mark Ahasic, an aviation consultant who worked with JetBlue during the 2007 meltdown, said the airline’s reputation “took a hit, but it didn’t destroy the brand.”

Southwest has to solve the issues that caused the holiday trouble and make amends with customers, but many travelers — particularly those at airports where Southwest has a strong foothold — typically have few airline choices, Ahasic said.

Southwest has nearly finished processing customer refunds and is working through the more complex task of reimbursements, which Jordan said includes everything from meals to dog-sitting fees. Some travelers who were left to pay high fares for scarce seats on other airlines are still waiting for their money back.

Codi Smith, a 28-year-old artist who lives in Los Angeles, paid $578.60 for a Delta flight back to LA from his mother’s house in St. Louis after Southwest canceled part of his return trip after Christmas. Southwest offered Smith an alternative flight on New Year’s Eve, but Smith said he has multiple sclerosis and needed to get back to Los Angeles sooner to get his medication.

“I just didn’t know what could happen,” Smith said.

Southwest refunded Smith for the portion of his trip on its airline, but as of last week hadn’t refunded him what he spent on the Delta flight. He said Southwest sent him four inflight drink coupons.

“Why would I use drink tickets when you owe me $600?” he said. “I really just want this money back.”

Cameron Brainard, a voiceover artist and country music radio host, said he paid more than $1,000 to get back to New York from Nashville, Tennessee, including a rental car from Louisville, Kentucky. Southwest offered him $540.02, noting in a Jan. 19 email, which Brainard shared with CNBC, that he hasn’t claimed the reimbursement yet.

“Make sure to claim this payment before it expires” in July, the email reads. “This payment constitutes full and final settlement of your claim with Southwest Airlines.”

Brainard said he flies Southwest frequently and isn’t planning to quit the airline after his cancellation, though he would “second guess it” depending on how his reimbursement pans out.

“I hope it makes them a better airline,” he said.

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