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Vox Sentences: IRS: Did you give yourself money? Trump Foundation: Yup!

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

The Trump Foundation admitted to breaking the law; Turkey's continued slide toward authoritarian democracy; a glimmer of hope for Democrats and voting rights advocates in Wisconsin.

An important week for Turkey

Erdogan Murat Kaynak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Turkey is likely to face a referendum in the spring that would substantially expand the role of the president in government and allow Recep Tayyip Erdogan to serve in that position through 2029. [Reuters / Ercan Gurses and Orhan Coskun]
  • The proposed amendments to the constitution, which are expected to be formally introduced in the coming days, were endorsed by the leader of the nationalist bloc in Turkey's parliament — removing a potential stumbling block for Erdogan and his party. [The Guardian / Kareem Shaheen]
  • (Erdogan's party extended an olive branch to the nationalists Tuesday by withdrawing a controversial bill that would have given amnesty to men convicted of sexual abuse of children, as long as the offender married the victim.) [The Guardian / Kareem Shaheen]
  • The constitutional amendments (which Erdogan has been pushing for for some time, but redoubled his efforts on after the failed coup of this summer) signify another step down the road to what Dissent's Nick Robinson calls "authoritarian democracy" in Turkey — a trait he also diagnoses in India under Narendra Modi and, perhaps, in the US of the future under Donald Trump. [Dissent / Nick Robinson]
  • But Erdogan continues to mount an impressive PR campaign outside Turkey boosting his legitimacy and his agenda. Lindsay Lohan has mysteriously started spouting Erdogan slogans about the need to expand the permanent members of the UN Security Council, sparking theories that she's being paid off... [BuzzFeed News / Hayes Brown]
  • ...and future national security adviser Mike Flynn, who initially praised the coup attempt, changed his tune once his firm started lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government. [Huffington Post / Jessica Schulberg]

Hint: when the IRS asks if you've done something prohibited, don't check "Yes"

A big ol' portrait of Trump John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • The Trump Foundation admitted in its 2015 tax filings that it violated US law by transferring funds to a "disqualified person" — a practice known as "self-dealing." [Washington Post / David Fahrenthold]
  • Literally, it just straight-up admitted to illegal behavior. The tax form asked if the foundation had transferred assets to a "disqualified person," and the foundation's tax preparer checked "Yes."
  • Who the "disqualified person" was, and what the funds were used for, aren't clear from the IRS filing. But thanks to previous reporting from the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold, we know that the Trump Foundation paid legal fees for some lawsuits against Trump and his holdings — so it could be something like that. [Washington Post / David Fahrenthold]
  • Tax experts say the self-dealing prohibition is incredibly easy to follow. "It’s as if," one former IRS official told Forbes, "no one ever bothered to learn what the rule was." [Forbes / Ashlea Ebeling]
  • It is also, for the record, literally what Donald Trump spent the campaign accusing Hillary Clinton of doing with the Clinton Foundation (despite there being no evidence of that whatsoever). [CNN / Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer]
  • But it's okay! Everything between Trump and Clinton is water under the bridge, according to Trump. He is not interested in prosecuting her, and he even allows that the Clinton Foundation might have done "some good work." [Maggie Haberman via Twitter]

The last chance for voting rights liberals?

Map of Wisconsin voting districts Wisconsin Legislative Map Gallery
  • A US district court has ruled that Wisconsin's 2011 redistricting, conducted by a Republican state government, was so partisan in its gerrymandering that it amounted to a violation of the Constitution. [NYT / Michael Wines]
  • If the ruling holds, it would be a huge breakthrough for liberals — who'd fingered partisan gerrymandering as a potential target for a five-justice liberal majority under President Hillary Clinton. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • Both parties engage in partisan gerrymandering whenever they're in power. But increasingly (especially as Republicans take over state legislatures), Democrats — including President Barack Obama — are recognizing that it dilutes the power of individual votes and encourages lazy incumbency. [Politico / Edward-Isaac Dovere]
  • The Supreme Court hasn't been willing to state that gerrymandering to protect parties' electoral advantages violates voting rights — but it's held out hope for a clear principle that might show when a gerrymander becomes unfair. And in Wisconsin, the court thinks it's found a formula that could be used to draw a bright line. [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]
  • But if the ruling fails, liberals and voting rights advocates are in trouble. The outlook under President Donald Trump, and his likely five-vote conservative Supreme Court majority, is generally ... well, it's bleak (though Kennedy could buck the conservatives on gerrymandering specifically). [NYT / Ari Berman]
  • The best hope would be for a Democratic rally in state legislatures in 2020, giving them control over the next round of redistricting. Democrats are already laying the groundwork. But so are Republicans. [The New Yorker / Elizabeth Kolbert]


  • You think you know deceit, you think you know treachery, but you know nothing if you don't know the Great Soapbox Derby Scandal of 1973. [Akron Beacon Journal / Carol Biliczky]
  • In another blow to the Obama administration, a federal judge has put a hold on its new regulations expanding which workers are eligible for overtime. (Donald Trump was probably going to overturn them anyway, but it'll be politically easier now.) [Politico / Timothy Noah]
  • Conservative web publications keep publishing hoax articles by fictitious critics of Elon Musk. [Bloomberg / Paul Barrett]
  • Ten years ago, Tila Tequila was a mostly harmless MySpace celebrity. Now she's a self-described Nazi. What the hell happened? [BuzzFeed / Kate Aurthur]
  • Meet Very Smart Brothas, "the blackest thing that ever happened to the internet." [WaPo / Lavanya Ramanathan]


  • "The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words." [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via DCist / Rachel Sadon]
  • "Both Brownstein and Tucker sing, or rather they argue — argue over their songs, over the claims different personae, perhaps different parts of the same person, might make on the songs." [Esquire / Greil Marcus]
  • "I wish I could point to the moment when I first understood I was a thing to be hated." [NYT / Morgan Parker]
  • "The irony here is that it’s Republicans that pushed for identity politics, and they picked it up from racists who created it. What is a whites only toilet, if not identity politics?" [Marlon James]
  • "Alabama’s public schools, still underfunded, still separate and unequal, ranked near the bottom nationally, stand as one of Jeff Sessions’ most enduring legacies." [NYT / Thomas Sugrue]

Watch this: The hidden war over grocery shelf space

There's a hidden market in the supermarket. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]