Over the weekend, three senior investigative journalists at The New York Times reported on a groundbreaking inquiry into US president Donald Trump’s decades of tax evasion and debt. Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire revealed that in 2016, the year Trump was elected into office, he’d paid just US$750 (AUD$1058) in federal income taxes. The following year, he paid the same amount.
Since 2005, the report claimed that Trump has only paid income taxes for 5 years, paying more to other countries including $145,400 in India and $156,824 in the Philippines three years ago. The reason? Apparently, Trump reported losing more money than he was making.
The findings, which were gathered through information “provided by sources with legal access to it”, also reported that Trump wrote off more than $70,000 in hair-styling costs as “business expenses” during his time on his television show, The Apprentice.
“He is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million,” the article explained, “… with most of it coming due within four years. Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.”
The report also revealed that a handful of Trump’s businesses received funds from “lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favour” from him.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s reported debts raise “a national security question.”
“There is no sense of decency,” she said of Trump’s tax evasions. “This is a president who wants parades of military armament and the military paying homage to him in front of the White House like he’s some kind of a dictator, and yet is he paying for any of that? The protection of our country? $750? Yeah, it’s a disdain for America’s working families. It’s not right, but our responsibility is to protect and defend, and we have to make sure we know what exposure the President of the United States has and what an impact it has on national security decisions for our country.”
Speaking to MSNBC’s television anchor, Andrea Mitchell, Pelosi said it was “strange” that Trump paid much more to other governments than to his own in the same year.
“This president appears to have over $400 million in debt … To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have? So for me, this is a national security question.”
“The fact that you could have a sitting president who owes hundreds of millions of dollars that he’s personally guaranteed to lenders, and we don’t know who these lenders are,” Pelosi continued, insinuating that Trump might owe something to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“What does Putin have on the president politically? Personally? Financially?” Pelosi asked. “The question is what does Putin have on the President politically, personally, financially and in every way that the President would try to undermine our commitment to NATO, give away the store to Russia and Syria, try to cast blame on Ukraine for interfering in our elections when he knows full well, with the consensus from the intelligence community, that it is Russia. The list goes on and on, the annexation in Crimea, and the rest of that the President just turns away from.”
“So, he says he likes Putin, and Putin likes him. Well, what’s the connection? We’ll see. The fact is, whatever that leads to, the fact is over $400 million in leverage that somebody has over the President of the United States. If he were going to be a President – a federal appointee that would be a major obstacle. Because someone has leverage over you in terms of the national security.”
“Let’s come back to, we take an oath to protect and defend,” Pelosi said. “This President is the Commander-in-Chief. He has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, to whom? The public has a right to know.”
Alan Garten, the attorney representing The Trump Organisation, responded to the NY Times’ report by saying that “most, if not all, of the facts” reported appeared to be inaccurate. On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to call the report “fake news” and attacked the media for bringing up his taxes and “other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent”.