Tuesday Reads: Double Trouble for TrumpPosted: September 29, 2020
The New York Times has published the second installment in its ongoing series on Trump’s taxes. But first, a recap of the revelations from the first blockbuster story and reactions from other sources.
Just Security has a good breakdown of the main revelations from the the first NYT article: Ten Quick Takeaways from the New York Times’ Bombshell Article on Trump’s Tax Returns. This is takeaway 2:
Trump appears to be an absolutely terrible businessman. This is a man who netted $606 million over nineteen years (from 2000 to 2018) through The Apprentice, licensing and endorsements, and investments and businesses run by others, and yet has created enormous financial peril for himself by buying prestige business properties for high prices, and then pouring cash into them without thereby generating positive net returns. Even with the cash infusions, his personally run businesses have continued to lose a great deal of money (even leaving aside depreciation deductions that might or might not be accompanied by actual declines in economic value). One therefore suspects that he is simply funding the negative cash flow, not creating new value that might pay off in the future. (Even the enhanced revenues at some U.S. properties from their being used by lobbyists have failed to eliminate the pattern of losing a great deal.)
Meanwhile, perhaps to fund the ongoing cash infusions, he has been taking out loans and making one-time asset sales that imply a danger of simply running out of money soon if there is no turnaround. The $421 million in personal liability debts that the Times says are due soon add to the impression of an approaching risk of financial breakdown. However, beyond just the financial peril that he may be facing, the pattern looks like one of recklessly and improvidently burning through one’s cash for as long as it lasts, rather than of investing prudently to create future value.
Adam Davidson of The New Yorker posted an interesting Twitter thread yesterday:
Davidson concludes: “Until we know who, we don’t know who this man owes and what they know about him.”
This is from Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors on the Robert Mueller team:
From The Washington Post: Trump’s debts and foreign deals pose security risks, former intelligence officials say.
ecurity teams at U.S. spy agencies are constantly scouring employee records for signs of potential compromise: daunting levels of debt, troubling overseas entanglements, hidden streams of income, and a penchant for secrecy or deceit to avoid exposure.
President Trump would check nearly every box of this risk profile based on revelations in the New York Times from his long-secret tax records that former intelligence officials and security experts said raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests.
The records show that Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; that foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington hotel and other properties; and that despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due.
“From a national security perspective, that’s just an outrageous vulnerability,” said Larry Pfeiffer, who previously served as chief of staff at the CIA. Pfeiffer, who now serves as director of the Hayden Center for Intelligence at George Mason University, said that if he had faced even a fraction of Trump’s financial burden, “there is no question my clearances would be pulled.”
The disclosures show that Trump’s position is more precarious than he has led the public to believe, and he faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis.
As a result, officials and experts said that Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament, and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.
Moving on, here’s today’s New York Times dispatch: How Reality-TV Fame Handed Trump a $427 Million Lifeline, by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig
From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.
“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”
It was all a hoax.
Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch…
But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.
Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.
The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.
There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”
Just as, years before, the money Mr. Trump secretly received from his father allowed him to assemble a wobbly collection of Atlantic City casinos and other disparate enterprises that then collapsed around him, the new influx of cash helped finance a buying spree that saw him snap up golf resorts, a business not known for easy profits. Indeed, the tax records show that his golf properties have been hemorrhaging millions of dollars for years.
Read the whole long, detailed article at the NYT.
I doubt if Trump’s base supporters read The Atlantic, but maybe they’ll get wind of this on Facebook or Twitter. McCay Coppins writes: Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters. Former aides say that in private, the president has spoken with cynicism and contempt about believers.
One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.
Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”
“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.
The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.
But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.
As world-wide coronavirus deaths pass 1,000,000, with more than 205,000 in the U.S., another source of political support for Trump appears to be weakening. Politico: ‘He just lies’: Florida’s senior voters suddenly are in play.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida seniors, long an unflinching bloc of reliable GOP votes, are suddenly in play as President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has his reelection campaign on the defensive.
The pandemic and anxiety about possible cuts to entitlement programs have eroded the GOP’s once-solid advantage with the battleground state’s retirees, recent polls show, a demographic Republicans have won by double digits in recent presidential races.
“I really got sick of him when he did not wear a mask, and he took the control totally away from the governors. It was a very bad situation,” said Joy Solomon, a 65-year-old from Boca Raton who voted for Trump in 2016 largely because that’s who her husband supported, but who has now turned against the president. “I want this place to come back to some sense of normalcy.”
“He just lies about everything,” she said.
Retirees have long flocked to Florida’s warm climate and white sandy beaches, where they’ve gained outsized political sway in the nation’s largest swing state. In the 2012 presidential election, voters 65 and older comprised 26 percent of all votes, a number that jumped to 30 percent in 2016.
Now recent polls show Trump’s comfortable cushion with Florida seniors eroding in a state where campaigns are won on the thinnest of margins.
Read about the latest polls at the link.
With all this happening, you have to wonder how Trump can face participating in a debate with Joe Biden tonight, but that is what he’s scheduled to do tonight at 9PM. I expect he’ll be even crazier than ever–lashing out in all directions. I hope Biden can handle it. Here’s some info on tonight’s political cage match from Vanity Fair: How to Watch the First Presidential Debate Between Trump and Biden.
On Tuesday night, for the first time this election cycle, President Donald Trump and his challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, will come face-to-face to tackle a wide range of issues during the first presidential debate of 2020. Based on just the last few days alone—during which Trump suggested Biden take a drug test before the debate and the New York Times released bombshell reporting on Trump’s federal income tax returns—viewers should expect fireworks between the septuagenarians. Here’s what to know about the first presidential debate, including where to watch or stream, who will moderate, and what the candidates will actually debate….
For those interested in seeing Trump versus Biden, it will be almost impossible to miss Tuesday night’s debate. The event will broadcast live on all the major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), as well as cable news channels such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. The debate also airs via CSPAN, which will provide a live-stream on YouTube for the proceedings as well.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will be the moderator.
I plan to watch. How about you? If you’re watching tonight, please stop by and share your reactions. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check in here during the day and let us know how you’re doing and what you’re reading and hearing.