President pushes back on Times article on debt, taxes

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference inside the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House September 27, 2020 in Washington, U.S.

Ken Cedeno | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Monday claimed he had paid “many millions of dollars in taxes” and has “very little debt” after a bombshell report in The New York Times revealed he had paid effectively no income taxes over several years, and is facing more than $400 million in looming loan and debt repayments.

But Trump, in his tweet making that claim, did not offer proof and conspicuously did not say he had paid millions of dollars in “income taxes,” which was the key point of the Times article.

Trump wrote in the same tweet thread that he “very little debt compared to the value of assets,” despite the Times report saying otherwise.

Trump, who has been in the White House for nearly four years, in a tweet wrote that he “may” release financial statements showing a list of his properties, assets and liabilities. He did not say why he has not done so to date.

Trump has consistently refused to release his income tax returns, claiming he cannot do so because he is being audited. However, there is no restriction on a taxpayer releasing their returns while under audit.

The president also is fighting a last-ditch legal battle in federal appeals court seeking to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining eight years of his income tax returns and other financial records from Trump’s accountants as part of a criminal investigation.

The Times reported Sunday that for two recent consecutive years, in 2016 and in 2017, Trump paid just $750 per year in income taxes.

“He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made,” The Times reported on its website, two days before Tuesday’s first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the former vice president.

The article undercut Trump’s boasts of brilliant business acumen, saying that by racking up consistent business losses he has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from his father, his work on “The Apprentice” reality TV show and bank loans.

“Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million,” The Times reported.

But Trump pushed back on the report in a series of tweets Monday morning.

“The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my Taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent. I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

“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,” the president added.

“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!”

Timothy O’Brien, a Bloomberg News opinion columnist who was sued for libel by Trump over a book he wrote about the president’s finances, on Monday wrote that Trump’s indebtedness, which O’Brien believe is much higher what the Times reported, makes him a danger to national security.

“Due to his indebtedness, his reliance on income from overseas and his refusal to authentically distance himself from his hodgepodge of business, Trump represents a profound national security threat – a threat that will only escalate if he’s re-elected,” wrote O’Brien, who won the suit filed by Trump.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor and a Trump critic, tweeted O’Brien’s article, adding that Trump’s creditors have a significant hold over the president because of the amount of his reported debt.

“That puts them in position to squeeze us all as long as he’s president,” Tribe wrote.

“Two takeaways: 1. Keeping him in office endangers our national security. 2. He’s desperate to hold onto office to stay out of prison,” Tribe wrote.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., in a tweet echoed that, writing, “Any American who filed a tax return that looked like #TrumpTaxes would be denied a security clearance.”

Lieu added that Trump “is a walking national security liability. He can be leveraged by foreign powers. Actually, pretty sure that has already happened.”

Biden’s campaign wasted no time seizing on the Times report, issuing a new advertisement that contrasted the president’s tax payments with those of working-class Americans.

“Teachers paid $7,239. Firefighters paid $5,283. Nurses paid $10,216. Donald Trump paid $750,” the Biden campaign tweeted.

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