Trump rages over exposed tax secrets

 

US President Donald Trump has issued another angry response to yesterday's explosive report from The New York Times, which delved into his personal finances.

The newspaper's investigation, based on almost two decades of data from Mr Trump's tax returns, uncovered a number of previously unknown details.

For example, it found the self-described billionaire had been paying hardly any federal income tax - just $US750 in both 2016 and 2017, and "no income taxes at all" in 11 of the 18 years it examined.

On top of that, Mr Trump's highest profile businesses are haemorrhaging money, and he has massive personal debts totalling $421 million, most of which will come due during his second term in office.

Yesterday the President labelled the report "fake" and "made up". Today, he once again lashed out at The Times for publishing it.

"The fake news media, much like election time 2016, is bringing up my taxes and all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information and only bad intent," Mr Trump said.

"I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation and tax credits.

"Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the fake news hasn't, I am extremely under-leveraged - I have very little debt compared to the value of assets.

"Much of this information is already on file, but I have long said that I may release financial statements, from the time I announced I was going to run for president, showing all properties, assets and debts.

"It is a very IMPRESSIVE statement, and also shows that I am the only president on record to give up my yearly $400,000-plus presidential salary!"

The emphasis on IMPRESSIVE there is his, not mine.

Mr Trump does indeed donate the entirety of his salary, though he is not "the only president on record" to do so. John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover, both of whom were wealthy before they took office, each donated their salary to charity.

The President continues to receive income from his real estate empire, having ceded control of the Trump Organisation to his children.

 

Mr Trump's claim that The Times' reporting is both fake and, at the same time, based on illegally obtained information, seems a little contradictory. For what it's worth, there is no evidence the newspaper acted outside the law here.

Its sources, on the other hand, may indeed have acted illegally when they leaked Mr Trump's personal information.

We don't know who those sources are. The paper didn't provide any clues, merely saying the information came from people "with legal access to it".

"All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it," it said.

"While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times."

Two of Mr Trump's most prominent defenders, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and his son Donald Jr, went on the Fox News morning show Fox and Friends to defend him today.

"This is the same playbook they tried in 2016 and the same playbook the American people rejected, and will do so again," said Ms McEnany. She called the report a "hit piece".

"If only they spent as much time looking for, maybe, I don't know, Hunter Biden's tax returns and the Biden crime family issues," said Donald Jr.

An investigation by Republican senators, which delivered its findings last week, concluded Hunter's work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma was a "problematic" attempt to "cash in" on his father's name.

However, it discovered no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden, and no proof of criminal conduct by his son.

 

The Democrats have largely responded to The Times' report by focusing on the President's personal debts, framing them as a national security issue.

Speaking to MSNBC, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris demanded a "full accounting" of Mr Trump's financial interests.

"Who does he owe the money to? Tell us. Who do you owe the money to?" said Ms Harris.

"And do you owe debt to any foreign nation? Do you owe money to anybody who is impacted by any decision you make as President of the United States?

"We need to know that. The American people have a right to know that when the President of the United States acts, he acts with their priorities in mind, not with his priorities in mind."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said pretty much the same thing.

"This President appears to have over $400 million in debt," Ms Pelosi said.

"To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have? So for me, this is a national security question."

The Times has promised more stories on Mr Trump's finances in the coming weeks, as the election draws closer.

Yesterday, investigative reporters Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntyre wrote that Mr Trump had "been more successful playing a business mogul (on The Apprentice) than being one in real life".

"The tax returns that Mr Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public," they said.

"His reports to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes.

"Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as President.

"Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."

Mr Trump has refused to release his tax returns to the public since before the 2016 election. He has repeatedly justified that refusal with the fact that they are under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

All the way back in February of 2016, the IRS issued a statement clarifying that "nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information".

 

Originally published as Trump rages over exposed tax secrets


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