Highlights From the NYT’s Trump Tax Return Bombshell

After the Supreme Court’s chickenshit decision to duck Trump’s tax case, it looked like we might never see Trump’s financial information. Now, thanks to the New York Times, we’re one step closer to an honest biography of Donald Trump.

The Times published their review of two decades of tax returns from Trump and the Trump Org, and it is glorious. It is, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Their story provides a 30,000 foot view of the business which casts serious doubt on Trump’s claims to wealth and exposes a long history of apparent tax fraud. It does not, however, include original records or direct lists of Trump’s shell companies, a critical element for prosecutors. They did mention though that they intend to publish further details over time.

A few highlights:

Trump bagged an incredible 7-figure payday from his trip to Russia in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, despite the fact that the pageant lost money, as usual. The cash came from Putin crony, Aras Agalarov who funded the event with $20m of his own money. Agalarov would later act as intermediary between Trump and Putin, and his son set up the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the now-indicted Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump pays $0 taxes in most years. In the past few years he paid $750.

Tax returns don’t show net worth, but they do provide clues. Whatever assets Trump may own they aren’t producing nearly enough declared revenue to cover expenses. If he isn’t insolvent per se, he is perpetually at the edge of insolvency. Though he’s clearly using a number of dodges, like creative depreciation of assets, he doesn’t have a lot of revenue to work with. It is very likely that Joe Biden has a higher net worth than Donald Trump.

His ownership share in the Apprentice is the only consistently lucrative thing Trump’s done in his life, earning him about $30m a year while it lasted. Across the entire 14 years of the show he appears to have earned a total of about $600m in total income. Nice, but not a billion. And more than that was squandered on his worthless, cash-guzzling side businesses like his golf courses and hotels.

About $119m of Trump’s total $130m in alleged charitible contributions over the past twenty years consisted of fraudulent “conservation easements” used to fund the purchase of lavish family estates. Two of them form the basis of an indictment being drawn up by the New York AG, pending release of Trump’s tax returns.

If Donald Trump is a billionaire, that means he earned that stake somewhere between the close of his fourth bankruptcy in 1995, when he claimed $900m in losses, and the beginning of the Times’ tax returns, around 2000, a period when he was adrift and struggling to get loans. Since he was right back into bankruptcy again in 2004 and 2009, that seems pretty unlikely. Not only is Trump not a billionaire, he never has been.

Why does anyone underwright the Miss America Pageant? It appears to be a predictable money loser every year. Are they just paying for the right to hang out in the dressing room like Donald Trump did?

Trump appears to have illegally written off tens of millions of dollars of payments to his children as “consulting fees” to avoid gift tax liability, a trick his father used to perform for him.

Trump used a provision of the federal bailout after the ’08 crash to evade liability for at least $28m in “forgiven debt,” which in his case were debts he decided not to pay.

The Turkish government has explicitly used the booking and cancellation of large events at the Trump Hotel to manipulate White House policy.

Revenue from political events at Mar a Lago has been one of the only financial bright spots in the Trump businesses during his time in office.

Trump’s largest single source of income since taking office is $56.4m in debts he decided not to repay. Much of the tax debt resulting from those defaulted loans was eliminated by a $9.7m federal tax credit from his renovation of the old Post Office building, now the Trump Hotel DC.

A 2011 audit of Trump’s tax returns is still sitting in the hands of the Joint Committee on Taxation. Trump walked away from his Atlantic City Casino partnership in 2009 to dodge another bankruptcy, leaving the partners holding the bag. He subsequently claimed that his partnership interest was worthless, submitting a questionable loss of more than $700m, shielding him from almost $100m in current tax liability. The size of this potential refund required the approval of the JCT. A decade later that approval still has not been granted as the case keeps getting deferred. Meanwhile Trump ended up cashing in a 5% stake in the new business that emerged from the bankruptcy, an interest that invalidates his claim to that refund under the law. Trump owes the government $100m in taxes as soon as 1) Republicans lose the Senate, or 2) his hand-picked IRS Chairman is removed as head of the JCT.

Trump took a cash-out mortgage on Trump Tower in 2012 for $100m. He has made no principal payments. The whole amount is due in ’22. The business has barely $30m in cash on hand. His total debts coming due over the next four years are nearly half a billion. Doral is already seeking payment delays from their lender, Deutsche Bank.

What’s not in The Times’ report? We don’t get the names and ownership details of the hundreds of shell companies Trump uses to launder money. That’s important, because the identities and registered locations of these companies would reveal a lot about Trump’s operations. That’s the key reason his returns would be valuable for prosecutors. Backed by federal subpoenas, prosecutors could run down the details of cash flow in and out of those shadow entities, even overseas, but first they have to find them.

We don’t know exactly how reporters got their hands on these records. Whoever leaked them did their country a valuable service while committing a serious federal crime. You can bet that Barr will have goons on their trail, and the reporters themselves will be in hot water. Fortunately, the President and his minions will have their hands full in coming weeks, but if Trump wins this election all of the folks involved in breaking this story might want to consider a long trip to Toronto.

The reporters and the leaker are probably worried, as they should be, but is Trump? Does anyone think these revelations will make any difference either politically, or in terms of meaningful legal consequences? What we should have learned from this decades long story of brazen fraud, theft and swindling is that only ordinary people need to fear the law. Those with enough money and chutzpah can steal their way to the White House.

45 Comments

  1. Of course, there is also the little tidbit for those in Texas that say “Get out and Vote to beat the fascists.” That has to now be changed to “Get out, find a ride to the only dropbox in your county, deal whatever armed cult members are at the box screaming at you, and Vote, to beat the fascists.”

    Harris County (big time Democrat area), 1700 plus square miles, population 4.7 million, was 11 drop boxes, now one.

    Yeah, voting alone will beat fascism.

    1. The real question is what kind of “quarantine process” he will follow. The CDC’s guideline is 14 days after exposure to a positive case. No way, no how, the tyrant will adhere to that, and in all fairness, I don’t think anyone would expect him to follow it.

      Given that Hicks was in the incubation phase and on AF1 with who knows how many people, that is when the real panic begins for this regime.

    1. My only question is why only one count. Every call made by them should be counted as a separate felony. A million year sentence will make sure no probation will ever reduce their sentence below their natural lives. That’s the type of law and order platform I can get behind!

  2. He-he-he:

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/09/trumpworld-panics-over-debate-fiasco-as-campaign-turmoil-mounts?utm_brand=vf&mbid=social_twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_social-type=owned

    I hope Brad sings like a little birdie. I hope that the Trump crime family did indeed steal from the RNC coffers and that Brad skimmed off of them. I hope all the nasty fighting keeps lots of lawyers fed.

    As for who released those tax returns, if Melania did it, couldn’t that be technically legal (depending on how they filed as a couple)??

  3. I am NOT surprised by any of this. I was reading accounts of Trump’s casino bankruptcies long before a run at the presidency had ever shown up on the radar.

    I would love to see both him and Ivanka being fitted for orange jumpsuits.🙂

    Not that the Dem party is beyond criticism, but I am so, so sorry for Chris that the party that he devoted so much time & energy to turned out to be such a waste of time and effort. In league with a conman and liar…the GOP is thoroughly discredited.

    I wonder sometimes if the never-Trumpers and the center-right part of the Democratic Party will form a new party. Or is it more likely for the Progressives to split off?

  4. I honestly don’t know if this will be able to change anything or have any impact on the election.

    I remember the Panama Papers. They exposed the games that the uber-rich play to keep themselves wealthy and dodge taxes. People thought it was going to be the start of something big. Nothing happened. The rich never got their due. The journalist who leaked the papers was the victim of a car bombing. Really, all it did was expose how ludicrously powerless regular people are in the face of vast wealth that can buy anything.

    I’d like to hope that maybe this time it’s different since this is Trump, and he’s drawn plenty of ire from all around, including some rich folk. But the super-wealthy and powerful may very well have a vested interest in keeping a Democratic administration, an administration intent on actually making them pay their fair share, out of office.

    We need to keep an eye out if they try to tip the legal and electoral scales in Trump’s favor, and raise a massive ruckus if/when they do. Mark Zuckerberg’s private dinners and meetings with Trump, GOP head honchos and the way that Facebook has refused to clamp down on false information in political ads. Elon Musk having donated money to a PAC that seeks to keep the GOP in power and more to other Republican groups. People like Jack Dorsey, and how Twitter lets Trump keep his account when the platform has permanently banned people who’ve broken fewer rules than him. These have already happened, continue to happen, and cannot be allowed to continue. I have faith that if a coordinated progressive-populist backlash keeps the focus on how Trump is a scumbag and how the people who aid him are also scumbags, we can make a difference.

    1. I’m not questioning that cynicism, but, if what the NYT implies is true, then Trump will get his due because he’s not rich. The cynicism doesn’t apply to him; he’s a pretender billionaire. The Deutsche Bank will get its due. Or maybe he’ll get straight-up donations from his cult, which would be even better.

  5. Decided, for the first time in months or years, to check National Review and The Federalist, because I was excited to see what bullshit they tried to spin doctor this with. I’m weird I know. But the Times’s story had me very happy.
    I thought they might just call the NYT liars but instead they’re avoiding the story altogether. The Federalist had one article saying that Trump was a tax avoidance genius and that whoever leaked his returns ought to be charged. Doesn’t even mention the charge that he’s been bleeding money for years.
    In this (non) response one can already see what conversations with these people a decade down the road (assuming there’s no disaster this November) are going to be like.

  6. Meanwhile in other news, either through incompetence, or sabotage, what appears to be a big number of voters in Brooklyn were disenfranchised, and just gave the tyrant more ammo to nullify the election.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/09/29/brooklyn-absentee-envelope-election-ny/

    There are up to 140,000 absentee ballots in Brooklyn alone. The percentage that are screwed up at this point is unknown, but read that story. It sounds big.

  7. At the end of the day, the Trumpanzees will not care. As long as Trump is sticking it to Brown people, liberals, and those living in urban areas then he can grift and cheat all he wants. Is any of his tax actions legal or not, I do not know. The only thing I know is these Trumpanzees hate their fellow Americans.

    1. The essence of Trumpism was summed up perfectly by that horrid woman in the FL panhandle, who complained to the NYT that Trump wasn’t hurting the people she expected him to hurt. Bad enough that someone thinks it’s the job of a President to hurt people, but what gives it a unique brand of awful is that it was said in the aftermath of a major hurricane that absolutely destroyed the area. It used to be that people could put aside the partisan politics at least for the short term after a disaster and work together to deal with the crisis. When stigginit takes priority over fixing your house or keeping your healthcare, you have chosen to jump off the deep end. You are not worth even a nanosecond of my time.

  8. Another interesting side story- it appears Brad Parscale had some sort of mental breakdown, which resulted in an assault on his wife, police responding, and him in the hospital. That ended as it should have ended. But what are the odds the cops would treated a Black man in the same situation the same way?

    1. I’m not sure if this directly ties to your thread Fly regarding Brad Parscale…but a complaint has been filed with the FEC that the Trump Campaign laundered 170 million of campaign funds through an LLC with Brad and other Trump campaign signatures all over it..If I am following the complaint correctly it appears 106 million of the total is tied to Brad with no actual services rendered.

      https://campaignlegal.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/07-27-20%20Trump%20AMMC%20%28final%29.pdf

      The Lincoln Project folks really hammered Trump that the “grifter in chief” was being conned by his own team subsequently leading to Trump demoting Brad in the Campaign.

      https://lincolnproject.us/news/gop-cribs/

  9. All very nice, but a few things:

    1. As others have stated, this will really no sway many voters, if any. Those that hate the enemy don’t need any more reason. And cult members be cult members. Many of his cult won’t even see it. Fox propaganda only has a brief mention of how the tyrant says it is all lies. Those that are still undecided, I am pretty sure that is a tiny number, and once again, I don’t think this is a deciding factor.

    2. I can’t get behind the paywall, but every site picking this up states this is tax avoidance, not evasion. Has the tyrant committed tax fraud? Of course. But no one seems to have the goods that prove it. I am sure the NYT has hired forensic accountants to dig real deep, and plans on accusing him of evasion, but see a subsequent point.

    3. There is zero doubt that this will be handled by his regime with the equivalent alarm as the Pentagon Papers were, IF there is any serious risk of the NYT actually finding proof of actual tax evasion, or ironclad, easy to understand proof of the tyrant being under the thumb of russia. If this regime is truly worried of that happening, there will be lawsuits filed immediately to stop any more publications, and this will be pushed to SCOTUS in record time. And the political and legal climate today is far far different than 1971.

    4. I am curious what the statute was that was broken by persons unknown. I have no doubt it is illegal to release these tax returns, but what is the actual crime. And as for your comments about Toronto, Canada and the u.s. have a very extensive extradition treaty. The people involved will have to go a lot further abroad than Canada.

    5. Further to point #3, if the tyrant and his regime are truly worried about this, when the tyrant is re-annointed in Nov (or Dec), I can see him using this as a weapon to sue the NYT into oblivion. If the NYT does release followup doc’s, I can see barr arresting reporters, editorial staff, senior management, and trying to shut down the NYT.

  10. Politically, I do not think it will make much difference except around the edges. However, if the NY Times follows through with their drip by drip release, that should help keep people from deciding at the last minute to vote for him. But there are few undecideds in 2020 unlike 2016. Accordingly, there may be a marginal difference in some close states. In the event , it is a close election, that could make a difference.

    The larger issue is the criminality and potential prosecution. If and until, more solid information is available in regards to his money laundering activities, I am dubious there will be enough solid evidence to get at the heart of his criminal empire. The potential indictment for fraudulent charitable contributions, will not be really significant, but it could perhaps be the straw that causes the entire house of cards to collapse.

    Finally, in regards to the sources, I do hope that the NY Times has the reporters well covered. As you say we do not yet know those details.

  11. I wouldn’t bet my life on assuming that this story was leaked to politically hurt Trump… but I’d sure as hell bet money on it.

    Seriously, I don’t know what kind of October Surprise F**kface von Clownstick thinks he has up his sleeve, but every day like today that he just keeps getting a steel-toed boot in the political nads is a day that he isn’t making up ground against Biden – and that’s a good day for America and the rest of the world.

    Keep the faith, everyone. Decent people are out there making some good trouble for us all.

    1. “I’d sure as hell bet money on it.”

      The most important sentence from the article was

      “This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.”

      So, we get it. This is NYTimes’ coordinated hit piece designed to keep focus on his malfeasance up to the election.

      We’ll see if it works, and if so, how. As it stands, we don’t live in newspaper time anymore; we live in infinity feed time. A hit like this in 2008 would be the defining closing stroke that would dominate discourse up to the actual ballot-in-box day, save some extraneous circumstance (miracle) that couldn’t as easily be designed. In the present day, by tomorrow some other crazy fucking trainwreck can have us rubbernecking in a completely different direction, turning us onto a completely different road, than we could possibly expect at the time of me publishing this comment.

  12. Don’t you feel like much of the basic story was already told in 2016? Trumpers thought Trump’s many, many bankruptcies were strategic… and I also remember Trumpers thinking that good businessmen don’t pay taxes and that taxes are for suckers. Too, we certainly are well aware of his abuse of charity funds. I don’t see how this changes much, honestly.

    I don’t mean to sound cynical. I don’t think revelations about Trump will change much. What matters is getting out the vote for Joe for people who usually sit out elections.

    1. Yeah his base is gonna call it fake news and move on with their lives.

      What I see different than 2016 is an actual timeline under which a vice grip is squeezing over the next four years. That’s useful information. It may not come to pass, but it helps illustrate that if he’s not a sitting President, he’ll be really stuffed for funds. It gives his opponents some schadenfreude to work for — if he doesn’t have the federal government at his disposal, his whole house of cards could collapse.

      Which makes me think back to 2016 and when he was planning on starting TrumpTV. Despite the fact that it’s clearly worse for all of us that he got elected than if he hadn’t, it also may have been worse for him. With TrumpTV, by now he’d have hundreds of millions of ad and merchandise revenue from his base, easily, that would allow him at least some income lifeline to hold onto the vast monetary card shuffle trick he’s playing. After all, The Apprentice was his primary lucrative endeavor. The NYTimes and various state and federal agencies wouldn’t be as obsessed with his tax returns either, so far more room to play Three Card Monte with.

      Now we know there’s a chance. There’s a chance if he’s removed from office that the whole empire will be liquidated to debt-holders and he’ll be kicked into a cell or the street.

      I’m cynical that won’t happen, but at least I can see a path to it. That’s better than being cynical it won’t happen and that cynicism being backed up by there being no visible path to it.

      1. What difference does it make? The only qualification that got her the nod is that she’s a religious nut who’s a reliable vote for tax cuts and authoritarian policies. And the only thing we can do about it is add Puerto Rico & DC as states and add two more justices to the court. The rest of the story is wasted air.

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