Trump's VP vetter says allegations over Corker financial dealings 'groundless'

Trump's VP vetter says allegations over Corker financial dealings 'groundless'

January 1st, 2017 by Andy Sher in Politics State

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee native who led President-elect Donald Trump's vice presidential vetting and helped check potential Cabinet nominees' backgrounds says allegations that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's business dealings got in the way of him being picked for any position are "baseless."

In a statement, attorney A.B. Culvahouse said, "We were aware that these allegations were being peddled, but after a thorough review, found them to be baseless and concluded that nothing in Senator Corker's background or business dealings would have in any way prevented him from serving as Vice President or as a Cabinet official, including Secretary of State."

The Daily Caller, an online conservative news site, last month reported obtaining "internal documents" provided by what was described as a "Trump confidant" that "reveal that insider trading allegations hurt Corker's chances for being picked" for Trump's administration.

In a statement to the Times Free Press, Corker's office blamed billionaire hedge fund operators it said were attacking the senator over his push to reform federally sponsored mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The statement said "there are absolutely no investigations underway" of the senator.

The Daily Caller account also reported two unnamed sources "close to the Trump transition process" said Corker's short stature "was a trait the president-elect did not want in his top diplomat."

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior Senate Banking Committee member, stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall.

The senator withdrew his name from consideration as Trump's running mate last summer. Trump eventually tapped ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state.

The documents The Daily Caller posted online appear largely based on previous news accounts of Corker's financial activities, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal in articles going back to 2011.

Several 2015 articles in the Journal later resulted in the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability filing complaints against Corker with the Senate Ethics Committee and the

Securities and Exchange Commission.

Some involved millions of dollars in stock trades Corker made in Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates, one of the nation's largest mall operators. Others dealt with his financial stakes in two Chattanooga-based hedge funds and one based in Memphis.

Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, real estate developer and office building owner, failed to report some trades on his Senate ethics filings, which he later rectified. The Journal reported Corker both made and lost money on his CBL trades.

The Daily Caller documents also questioned Corker's relationship with Chattanooga businessman Henry Luken, who was described as having bought "highly leveraged assets" as Corker sold many of his holdings before running for office in 2006.

Last spring, Corker told state Capitol reporters in Nashville the allegations and filings by Campaign for Accountability were part of a smear campaign spurred by his involvement in changes to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, federally created, for-profit entities that provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the home mortgage market.

Billionaire hedge fund operators bought Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae stock cheaply during the Great Recession and were hoping to cash in as they rebounded, Corker charged at the time.

In late May, after it was clear Trump would would be the GOP's nominee, Corker referred to the SEC and FBI inquiries in a Politico interview.

"In some ways, you could look at what has happened over the course of the last year — if that was something that was gonna matter — you could almost look at it as a blessing. From the standpoint of my finances, I will be the most vetted person here," he said.

In the statement to the Times Free Press last week, Corker's office called The Daily Caller material an "error-ridden document produced by Wall Street hedge funds seeking to discredit the work Senator Corker is doing to protect taxpayers and reform our housing finance system."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.


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