President Trump built his reputation on his business acumen and negotiating skills. On Tuesday night, the New York Times provided a trove of evidence that he doesn’t have much of either. The news organization obtained the president’s tax information from 1985-1994, and the numbers reveal that the only real skill possessed by the vaunted real estate mogul was hemorrhaging obscene amounts of money. In fact, Trump lost more money than any other American taxpayer over the course of the decade in question: $1.17 billion.
Trump lost so much money between 1985 and 1994 — including over 250 million in both 1990 and 1991 — that he didn’t even have to pay income taxes in eight of the 10 years. Despite the losses, Trump was able to maintain his ultra-luxe lifestyle because most of the money had been borrowed from banks, and because of the $413 million (in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation) he was able to secure from his father by bobbing and weaving his way around the tax code, as the Times reported last fall.
The president’s losses over the 10-year period were brought on by a series of poor investments — his USFL team, his airline, etc. — and wild spending despite his businesses failing to generate much revenue. In an effort to offset the losses, Trump began a practice of buying shares of a company to stoke speculation that he could be contemplating becoming a majority owner, waiting for the price of the stock to rise and then dumping the shares at a profit. Investors eventually became wise to the scheme, and Trump proceeded to lose the millions he gained from it.
The report also raises a few questions, the most glaring of which centers around a bizarre spike in Trump’s interest income. Across 1986, 1987 and 1988, he reported less than $20 in interest income, but in 1989 alone he brought in $52.9 million. The source of the income is a mystery, and by 1992 it had dipped back down to $3.6 million.
"One number from Mr. Trump’s tax returns is particularly striking—and particularly hard to explain: the $52.9 million in interest income he reported in 1989" but public findings "show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating close to $52.9 million" in interest???? https://t.co/0uagXOYWq9
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 8, 2019
The Times did not obtain Trump’s actual tax returns, only the information contained within them, which they received from someone with legal access it. The paper was able to cross check its findings with publicly available information, as well financial records obtained through prior reporting.
Charles Harder, one of the president’s lawyers, said the information was “demonstrably false,” telling the Times that “IRS transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate.” But the Times also spoke to a former director of research, analysis and statistics at the IRS who said the information is, as the paper puts it, “far from unreliable” and that the data “had undergone quality control for decades.”
Trump responded Wednesday morning by explaining that losing hundreds of millions of dollars was part of the “sport” of being a real estate developer, while simultaneously describing the report as a “Fake News hit job.”
….you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes….almost all real estate developers did – and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport. Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
The bombshell comes a day after Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin informed House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) that he would not turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns. The refusal constitutes an explicit violation of federal law, as the committee is entitled to obtain the returns as part of its oversight of the IRS. Neal has said he will “consult with counsel” to determine how to proceed, but a subpoena could be coming, which would likely lead to a protracted legal battle that could ultimately reach the Supreme Court.
Though the Trump administration has, at least for now, stonewalled Congress from seeing his returns, the state of New York appears poised to join the fight to uncover the reality of the president’s finances. The state’s legislature is reportedly intent on passing a bill that would allow certain congressional committees, including the Ways and Means Committee, to see Trump’s state returns. Legislators have said that Mnuchin’s denial on Monday will expedite the bill’s passage, despite objections from some who have decried the potential action as partisan. State Senator Brad Hoylman disagrees. “What’s at stake here is the prerogative of legislative oversight,” he told the Times. “And the desire of New Yorkers and the American people to seek the truth behind Trump’s taxes.”
Though the practice is customary for presidential candidates, Trump has refused to release his tax returns to the public. The Times report on Monday provides at least some insight as to why. There’s a good chance Trump is nowhere close to as rich as he claims, and there’s no telling what dubious means he employed to keep himself afloat in the years leading up to his candidacy, or what glaring financial conflicts of interest could exist now that he’s in office.
As with his tax information from 1985-1994, his records from the past decade would likely reinforce that Trump has scammed the entire nation into believing he’s a business genius, when in reality he’s subsisted mostly off of a series of cons and his father’s wealth.
“So the New York Times reports that Trump reported losses on his tax returns of more than $1.1 billion in ten years — more than any American taxpayer,” tweeted Tony Schwartz, who co-authored (and since disavowed) The Art of the Deal, the bestseller that was released as Trump started to bleed money in 1987. “Worst businessman ever? Biggest tax cheat? It’s one or the other — and very likely both.”