The New York Times just confirmed that Clinton was right — and reveals why President Trump has tried so hard to keep his taxes secret. It somehow managed to obtain Trump’s tax returns, which show that he is either a terrible businessman or a massive tax cheat — or possibly both. He managed to pay no federal income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — and only $750 in 2016 and 2017 — by claiming vast losses from his business empire. That $750 figure is a killer because it’s a number that middle-class Americans can understand. As a just-released Biden campaign ad points out, that’s far less than the taxes paid by the average teacher, nurse or firefighter.
The latest Times story neatly complements a previous Times scoop in 2018 which showed that, far from being a self-made man, young Trump received $413 million from his father — and squandered it in a series of failed deals. The new article picks up the story, showing that Trump received another windfall from “The Apprentice” and related deals — and then promptly squandered that, too. By July, the newspaper reports, the supposed billionaire had no more than $873,000 in securities left to sell.
The Times article supports the assumption that Trump ran for president in 2015 — a race he never expected to win — to revive his flagging fortunes. That is, in fact, what Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress last year: “Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history. . . . The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.”
Once Trump unexpectedly won, the marketing opportunities only increased for the most unethical president in our history. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) just released a report showing that Trump has 3,400 conflicts of interest. He has profited from his presidency by making repeated visits to his own properties with his vast entourage in tow, while lobbyists, political groups and foreign governments have also paid to stay at his properties.
Trump tried to secure even more lucrative paydays by announcing that the Group of Seven summit would be held at his Miami-area golf resort and reportedly instructing the U.S. ambassador in London to pressure the British government to move the British Open golf tournament to his Scottish resort. Both schemes blew up in Trump’s face, raising the issue of why someone as rich as he claims to be would engage in such blatant profiteering. Now, we know the answer. Trump is not just less wealthy than he claims; he is up to his eyeballs in debt.
The Times reports that Trump is on the hook for $421 million in debt, much of which is coming due soon. As former FBI agent Josh Campbell points out, that much debt “disqualifies most people from obtaining a government security clearance,” because the U.S. government “views this as a vulnerability and a point of leverage for foreign adversaries seeking access to classified information.”
The Times account did not specify who Trump’s creditors are and sheds little light on his business connections with Russia. It did note that he made more money from holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 — $2.3 million — than from any other pageant. That money came from the Agalarov family, which is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and which lost $10 million on the transaction.
This should serve as a reminder that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III refused to look into Trump’s financial dealings with Russia, which Trump said was a red line for him. That investigation still needs to be conducted. But even the bare facts revealed by the Times show why both former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former director of national intelligence Daniel Coats suspect that (as Coats told Bob Woodward) “Putin had something on Trump.”
And Putin isn’t alone. The Times shows that Trump made millions of dollars during his presidency from licensing deals in places such as the Philippines, Turkey and India, rendering him vulnerable to pressure from the strongmen in power in all of those countries. Indeed, former national security adviser John Bolton said that Trump’s decision-making on Turkey was motivated by Trump’s business interests. That is a shocking corruption of U.S. foreign policy.
Will any of it matter? It’s true that the Times’s revelations are unlikely to move Trump’s devoted supporters to vote for Joe Biden. But they do disrupt Trump’s ability to get his message across with only 36 days left in an election that he is losing.
The Times has done an impressive job of getting the truth out, and now it is up to the voters to decide whether they want to reelect a flimflam man. The Times account makes clear that Trump is desperate to stay in office in no small part because he needs to profit from the presidency — and to avoid the risk of prosecution for tax fraud and other possible crimes.