NEWS AND OPINION:
At long last, the numbers have been revealed about the sale of President Trump‘s boyhood home, located in a pleasant neighborhood of Queens, New York. The attractive Tudor home was sold five days ago to an unnamed buyer for $2.14 million — a tidy 54 percent profit for Michael Davis, the local real estate investor who purchased the property for $1.39 million through public auction only three months ago. He was praised by the press for “flipping” the property, built in 1940 by Mr. Trump’s father Fred C. Trump, himself a real estate developer.
There is reason to fuss over the five-bedroom home. It could very well be declared a historic property, or become a lucrative tourist destination. There is always intrigue, though. Both the New York Times and New York Daily News note that the lawyer who represented the buyer “is known to represent Chinese investors.” If that proves to be true, there will be a media frenzy over a “Chinese connection,” or words to that effect — so stand by. Meanwhile, the property remains a cozy house, and Mr. Trump has publicly revealed that he still loves it.
“This property is so much more than just real estate; it’s the childhood home of the 45th president of the United States, and it’s a part of history. That intangible value makes it a perfect example of why special properties are appropriately sold by auction, just like art is. As they say, beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder,” notes Misha Haghani, founder of Paramount Realty USA, which managed the transaction. Find the home here.
THE TRUMP TOUCH
“Donald Trump gets it. He really gets it,” says an appreciative Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit that favors free-market solutions to social and economic challenges.
“At the signing ceremony for his ‘Energy Independence Executive Order’ Wednesday, President Trump stood surrounded by coal miners, talked to them like the real people they are, and thanked them for what they do,” Mr. Bast continues, citing Mr. Trump’s vow to put the miners back on the job.
“President Trump stressed that this isn’t about lowering standards for protecting health and safety, whether for miners or the public, but about ending unnecessary and costly regulations that kill jobs without producing any benefits. For many of us who were marginalized, ignored, or demonized for the past eight years, this is an occasion for real joy, celebration, and yes, vindication. We have a president who gets it — he really gets it,” Mr. Bast concludes.
The daily White House press briefing is an interesting showcase. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about ongoing but unproven challenges to the Trump administration — “you’ve got Russia, you’ve got wiretapping, there are investigations on Capitol Hill,” one reporter noted.
“If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” Mr. Spicer responded, adding, “I appreciate your agenda here.”
THE SESSIONS ERA BEGINS
“The number of federal criminal prosecutions has declined for five consecutive years and is now at its lowest level in nearly two decades,” writes John Gramlich, an analyst for the Pew Research Center who combed through new data from the federal courts. “The decline comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department will reverse the trend and ramp up criminal prosecutions in the years ahead.”
In fiscal year 2016, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 77,152 defendants, a decline of 25 percent since 2011, when 102,617 defendants were charged, and the lowest yearly total in two decades. The data here count all defendants charged in U.S. district courts with felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as some defendants charged with petty offenses. They exclude defendants whose cases were handled by magistrate judges.
“Prosecutions for drug, immigration and property offenses — the three most common categories of crime charged by the federal government — all have declined over the past five years,” Mr. Gramlich says. “The Justice Department filed drug charges against 24,638 defendants in 2016, down 23 percent from 2011. It filed immigration charges against 20,762 defendants, down 26 percent. And it charged 10,712 people with property offenses such as fraud and embezzlement, a 39 percent decline.”
The analysts cite several factors for the trend, including then-Attorney General Eric Holder‘s direction in 2013 to federal prosecutors to ensure their cases “serve a substantial federal interest.” Mr. Sessions, meanwhile, has pushed to increase prosecutions for drug- and gun-related offenses to reduce violent crime, which has risen nationally since 2015 according to the FBI — though such crime is “far below the levels recorded in the 1990s,” Mr. Gramlich says.
Success continues for Fox News Channel, which has garnered the highest-rated quarter in cable news history, topping all rivals in the cable realm both in daytime and primetime hours according to Nielsen Media research. The ever-ready “The O’Reilly Factor” not only had its highest-rated quarter ever in history, but it broke all previous records in cable news history for the highest-viewership ever for any given program in a quarter. More millenials chose Fox News over CNN and MSNBC, while Fox claimed 13 of the top 15 cable news programs. All of the familiar Fox News programs were up double-digits compared to the same quarter last year. “The O’Reilly Factor” continues to be the top rated cable news program, as it has for the last 17 years.
Meanwhile, the Fox Business Network has topped rival CNBC for the sixth consecutive month, thus earning the title of No. 1 business network on television. “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” “Varney & Co.” and “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” were once again the top three business programs in financial news.
POLL DU JOUR
• 75 percent of U.S. investors want the trump administration to focus on lowering taxes; 37 percent are optimistic it will happen, 31 percent pessimistic.
• 72 percent went the administration to focus on keeping U.S. jobs from “going overseas”; 48 percent are optimistic it will happen, 24 percent pessimistic.
• 68 percent would like the administration to focus on “the prospect of increased wages”; 41 percent a re optimistic it will happen; 27 percent pessimistic.
• 66 percent would like the administration to focus on reducing the federal deficit; 35 percent are optimistic it will happen, 34 percent pessimistic.
Source: A Legg Mason survey of 900 U.S. investors conducted through January and February and released Monday.
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