Government LendingRegulatory

Lordy, there's a tape of Trump discussing VA loan legislation

Bill Edwards, chairman of shuttered VA lender, cites refi regulations at Mar-a-Lago event

There’s a second undercover video of President Donald Trump at a private event with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and part of the discussion centers on mortgages backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new recording brings to mind the famous statement by former FBI Chairman James Comey during testimony to the U.S. Senate in 2017: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!”

Bill Edwards, the former chairman of Mortgage Investors Corp., or MIC, the now-defunct lender that once was the largest originators of VA loans, complained to Trump on the video about new regulations aimed at preventing so-called loan churning.

Churning is when lenders encourage frequent refinances, with the fees rolled into the loan’s principal and paid off with interest over the life of the mortgage. When refinances are done abusively, it drives up rates on all government mortgages, the Urban Institute reported last year.

On the video, Edwards complains to Trump about then-pending bipartisan legislation with new regulations aimed at preventing loan churning in the VA’s Streamline Refinance program.

“Where’s the problem? In the Senate or the House?” Trump asks.

“The Senate,” Edwards responds, citing an effort by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). The legislation was later adopted.

The mortgage discussion begins just before the 29-minute mark.

MIC in 2013 agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit, without admitting fault. In the court order, the company was prevented from soliciting refinancings while misrepresenting itself as the VA and required to stop contacting veterans on the federal Do Not Call list.

On Thursday, Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Parnas, released the video of Trump at private events with Parnas and Fruman, both under federal indictment for breaking campaign finance laws.

The two men pleaded not guilty in October to charges of illegally funneling foreign donations to U.S. candidates. They were arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., with one-way tickets out of the country.

Trump has claimed numerous times that he “doesn’t know the gentlemen.”

Their former attorney, John Dowd, who represented Trump during the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, wrote to the House of Representatives on Oct. 3, during a short period when he represented the pair. Dowd said in the letter the men couldn’t hand over subpoenaed documents because they were part of Trump’s legal team and the material was covered by the attorney-client privilege.

In the first recording, released Jan. 24, we hear the president at a private dinner with Parnas and Fruman at his hotel in Washington on April 30, 2018, ordering the firing of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, saying: “Take her out! OK? Do it!”

The second recording that includes the mortgage conversation occurred 10 days earlier at a private gathering at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. It shows Trump meeting with a small group of Republican donors including Parnas and Fruman.

The group discussed topics ranging from Syria to mortgages. Both recordings were first reported by ABC News.

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