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Key Takeaways and Reaction to the NYT Report on Trump’s Tax Returns

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  • A bombshell report from The New York Times detailed 18 years’ worth of information regarding President Donald Trump’s federal income taxes. 
  • In both 2016 and 2017, Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes each year, according to the report. 
  • Among other claims, it also alleges that for 11 of the years between 2000 and 2018, Trump paid no federal income taxes because he reported losing more money than he made at many of his signature businesses.
  • Trump has since dismissed the report as “fake news,” arguing, “I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits.” 

NYT Releases Data from Trump Tax Returns

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Sunday, which outlines decades of information relating to President Donald Trump’s federal income taxes.

Trump’s tax records have been fiercely sought after for years, dating back to when he refused to release them as a presidential candidate in 2016.

According to The Times, which claims to have obtained Trump’s tax records dating from 2000 to 2018, Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016. The next year, his first in office, he paid another $750 in federal taxes.

Even more significantly, in 11 of those 18 years, The Times alleges that Trump paid no federal income taxes at all.

As for how he was able to do that, it was largely because he reported losing much more money than he made at many of his signature businesses.

For example, The Times reported that Trump made $427 million from “The Apprentice,” as well as licensing and endorsements deals associated with his name. Trump then invested much of that money in a collection of businesses, mainly golf courses that steadily became money holes.

In fact, since 2000, Trump has reported losses of more than $315 million at his golf courses, losses of $55 million between 2016 and 2018 at his D.C. hotel, and losses of $134 million at Trump Corporation since 2000.

“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,” The Times reports. “His reports to the I.R.S. 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 more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.”

“Consulting Fees” Paid to Ivanka Trump

The Times reported that the filings showed a laundry list of business expense write-offs, including more than $70,000 paid to style Trump’s hair during “The Apprentice.”

Notably, Trump entities also wrote off at least $95,000 that was paid out to a hair and makeup artist of his daughter, Ivanka Trump. The media outlet added that Mr. Trump wrote off expenses like meals and fuel associated with the aircraft he used “to shuttle him among his various homes and properties.”

Among other claims, between 2010 and 2018, Trump wrote off around $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as business expenses.

While The Times notes that there’s no evidence Trump engaged in bribes or kickbacks to middlemen, it also notes that Trump may have reduced the amount of his income that could be taxed by treating a family member as a consultant.

The Times believes that that family member was Ivanka. That’s because in 2017, Ivanka reported receiving nearly $750,000 from a consulting company she co-owned — the exact amount the Trump Organization also claimed as tax deductions for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.

The big kicker is that Ivanka is also an executive officer of the Trump companies that led those projects — “Meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.” 

The Times added that if the payments to Ivanka were compensation for work, it’s unclear why Trump would do it in this form “other than to reduce his own tax liability.”

The “consulting fees” also raise another possibility: that this could have been a method for Trump to transfer assets to his children while avoiding a gift tax.

There, The Times points back to a 2018 Times investigation which discovered that Trump’s father had “employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children.”

The Times also pointed to a situation where a person directly involved in developing two Trump Towers in Istanbul said that there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. That’s despite The Times’ finding that Trump’s records “show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million.”

Trump’s Foreign Investments

The Times reported that they were “able to take the fullest measure to date of the president’s income from overseas, where he holds ultimate sway over American diplomacy.”

The outlet goes on to note that Trump said he wouldn’t pursue new foreign business deals when he took office in 2017, but during his first two years in office, his revenue from abroad was $73 million.

While much of that money was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, some came from licensing deals in countries with authoritarian-leaning leaders or thorny geopolitics — for example, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey,” the outlet reported. 

Notably, The Times explicitly stated that the documents it obtained did not “reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.”

How Much Trump Owes

According to The Times, Trump is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of that due within the next 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 outlet reported. 

On top of that, Trump reportedly has $100 million due in 2022 for a mortgage on the commercial space in the New York Trump Tower. Up to 2018, he had only paid interest on the loan but not the loan itself. 

To round it off, confidential records show that starting in 2010, Trump “claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million.” That’s the sum total of all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

That refund is actually already the subject of a long-standing and widely-known IRS audit, but if Trump is ultimately forced to pay back this refund, he’ll also be forced to return that money with interest and possible penalties. That could ultimately cost him $100 million.

Trump Responds to Bombshell Report

Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told The Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested to see documents in question. 

The Times reported that when they declined his request in order to protect their sources, Garten “took direct issue only with the amount of taxes Mr. Trump had paid.”

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Garten said. 

In response to that statement, The Times noted that Garten seemed to conflate “personal taxes” with other federal taxes Trump paid for his household employees. It added that Garten claimed Trump paid some of what he owed with tax credits, but it argued that was a mischaracterization of how those credits work.

As for Trump himself, in response to a reporter at a press conference, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news.”

“No,” Trump said on Sunday. “Actually, I paid tax. But — and you’ll see that as soon as my tax returns — it’s under audit. They’ve been under audit for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well.” 

“But they’re under audit. And when they’re not, I would be proud to show you. But that’s just fake news.” 

When asked if he could give people an idea of how much he was actually paying, he said, “Yeah, basically — well, first of all, I’ve paid a lot, and I paid a lot of state income taxes, too. The New York State charges a lot, and I paid a lot of money in state.” 

On Twitter Monday morning, Trump again called the report fake news and added, “I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & 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.”

He then said he may release those financial statements, which he called “very IMPRESSIVE.”

Critics of the President

Soon after The Times article, Joe Biden’s campaign tweeted an ad that showed how much tax American workers like teachers and firefighters pay compared to the $750 Trump allegedly paid.

It is “the latest reminder how clear the choice is here in this race between Park Avenue and Scranton,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said. “You have in Donald Trump, a President who spends his time thinking about how he can work his way out of paying taxes, of meeting the obligation that every other working person in this country meets every year.”

Many others, including celebrities and politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), echoed that point.

“Trump’s tax returns tell us that he’s either a very bad businessman or a tax cheat—likely both,” Sanders tweeted. “But more importantly, it shows how the wealthy, unlike most Americans, are able to avoid paying taxes.” 

Others also argued that Trump’s debts made him a threat to national security, with a Bloomberg columnist writing in a heavily circulated opinion piece: “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.” 

Defense of the President

Others, particularly supporters of the president, condemned The Times for reporting the story, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“Well, I don’t know how accurate the story is. The New York Times didn’t release any of the underlying documents,” the senator said in an interview with The View.

“Apparently somebody illegally gave them a copy of something, some tax return documents. I don’t think it’s an issue that frankly impacts a whole lot of Americans.”

“But the point is I don’t know if it’s accurate or not. I don’t think it’s an issue that frankly impacts a whole lot of Americans.” 

Conservative commentator Candace Owens also reiterated that point on Twitter.

“It’s time for our Department of Justice to begin looking into the New York Times,” she wrote.  “I don’t care what you think of Trump— if government officials are turning over an individual’s federal documents in an effort to sway an election—it is a federal crime of epic proportions.”

Others claim the story was intentionally dropped two days before the first debate between Trump and Biden, which is set for Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (Associated Press)

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Voters in 4 States Received Emails Threatening Them To “Vote for Trump or Else!”

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  • Democratic voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania received threatening emails telling them to vote for Trump or else the Proud Boys would “come after” them. 
  • The email came from a domain associated with the Proud Boys, but the group denied that it had any involvement and said that the website in question was no longer in use because it had been dropped by Google Cloud services.
  • According to The Washington Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it left it unsecured, meaning anyone online could take control of it.
  • Multiple outlets that reviewed the emails also reported that the messages did not come from the email address listed, but rather from foreign internet servers.

Threatening Emails

Registered Democrats in four different states — including three hotly contested swing states — were sent threatening emails Tuesday from an address that appeared to be affiliated with the far-right group the Proud Boys. The message warned recipients that if they did not vote for President Donald Trump, the group would “come after” them.

According to a screenshot of the email obtained by CBS News, the subject line of the message reads “Vote for Trump or else!”

“We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything),” the body of the email said. The sender went on to claim they know the recipient of the email is a Democrat because they “gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.” 

Source: CBS News

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the email continued. “Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”

Outlets that obtained copies of the email also reported that it concluded with the home address of the recipients they were sent to. Currently, voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania have reported receiving the threatening messages.

It remains unclear how many went out in total, but it does appear that most of them were sent to people in Florida and Alaska. In Alaska, local news outlets reported that the emails went out to over a dozen people. In Florida, a University of Florida spokesperson said that they knew of at least 183 Floridians who got the messages.

Officials in both states also announced that they have launched investigations, and the FBI was also looking into the matter.

Proud Boys Deny Involvement

While the sender’s address is listed info@officialproudboys.com, a domain associated with the Proud Boys, the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, immediately denied that they had any involvement.

“We don’t send emails. This is someone spoofing our emails and website,” he told reporters. “We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group.”

Tarrio also told The Washington Post that the group has been in the process of migrating from officialproudboys.com to another site. In fact, they said officialproudboys.com has not been used for weeks because that domain was recently dropped by a hosting company that uses Google Cloud services after concerns were raised about the group.

According to The Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it appeared to just be left unsecured, and thus “allowing anyone on the Internet to take control of it and use it to send out the menacing messages.”

Numerous outlets that reviewed the emails also said that they did not come from the email address that was displayed, but rather from foreign internet servers. According to CBS, the metadata from the emails they analyzed showed that the messages originated from IP addresses connected to servers in Estonian, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

While experts noted that the IP addresses do not necessarily mean that the senders were based in those countries because they could have routed the emails from almost anywhere, some cybersecurity experts have pointed to the possibility of foreign interference to sow chaos in the election.

“We’re 2 weeks from the last day to vote! This is also the perfect time for adversaries to create chaos by spreading bogus claims or overstating activity,” Chris Krebs, the director of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeting, noting that his office was aware of the emails.

“Ballot secrecy is guaranteed by law in all states,” he continued. “These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (The New York Times)

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Exxon Clarifies That Quid Pro Quo Call With Trump “Never Happened”

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  • During a rally Monday, President Trump said he would outraise Biden in campaign donations if he asked corporations to donate money to his campaign in return for granting political favors.
  • He used an example of asking the CEO of Exxon to give his campaign $25 million in exchange for permits and licenses. 
  • The scenario the president described is a federal crime punishable by prison time, and in a statement shortly after, Exxon said that the call “never happened.”
  • Trump clarified that he would not ask for those donations because it would make him “compromised” and implied soliciting money from large companies would compel him to grant them political favors in return because he is “loyal.”
  • Many still condemned the president, arguing that even if it was a hypothetical, the kind of quid pro quo he detailed is almost exactly what he was impeached for, and given his track record, some believe it is possible that this is something he would do again.  

Exxon Refutes Call

After President Donald Trump told a crowd of rallygoers Monday that he could, in theory, call up the CEO of Exxon Mobil and ask him to donate to his campaign in exchange for political favors, the energy giant clarified that no such call had taken place.

“We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO,” the company said in a tweet. “And just so we’re all clear, it never happened.” 

While speaking to the crowd in Prescott, Arizona, Trump addressed the fact that he is currently being handily out-raised by former Vice President Joe Biden by claiming that he would be “the greatest fund-raiser in history” if he collected bribes from companies in exchange for political favors.

“All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, the head of every major company, the head of every major energy company. ‘Do me a favor, send $10 million for my campaign,’” Trump said, adding that he could not take the money because it would make him “totally compromised.”

“Because when they call me, you know, you’re a loyal person, and what happens is hey, you know, you’ll do things that are a lot more money,” he added, before going on to provide an example.

“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” the president said. “‘Hi, how are you doing? How’s energy coming? when are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘You know, I’d love you to send me $25 million dollars for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely, sir, why didn’t you ask?’” 

Beyond making him “compromised,” the situation that the president described is also illegal. Under federal law, soliciting for donations in exchange for a favor or advantage — like a specific policy outcome or permits and licenses — is punishable by fines, removal from office, and up to 15 years in prison.

Response

Trump’s remarks quickly began trending on Twitter, with many users condemning him. Despite the fact that the example the president provided appeared to be entirely hypothetical, some people still found it alarming, especially because he did not outright acknowledge it was illegal.

Some noted that the scenario he described almost exactly the kind of quid pro quo that Trump was impeached for after he withheld aid from Ukraine in order to coerce the country’s president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

“It’s basically what he was impeached for: trading presidential act for political favor,” one user wrote. “Just substitute ‘Exxon’ for ‘Ukraine.’ ‘Exxon, I need you to do me a favor, though.’” 

Other users also pointed out that Trump repeatedly defended himself during the impeachment proceedings by claiming his actions did not constitute a quid pro quo. If he believed he did not commit any wrongdoing, they argued, it is possible that he would engage in this kind of behavior again.

“If he was willing to do this with Ukraine, I have no doubt he’s done it with US corporations,” one user wrote.

Some also cast doubt on the fact that it was a hypothetical at all.

“Trumps the kind of guy who jokes about doing something illegal but says ‘I’m just kidding’ but he’s actually done it,” one person tweeted. “He made the old Exxon CEO the Secretary of State. How much has Exxon given Trump & how has the Trump administration helped them w/ regulations.” 

It is true that the oil and gas industry has been a large contributor to Trump, who has spent his time in office denying scientific facts about climate change and rolling back decades of environmental regulations.

According to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, Trump and outside groups associated with him have raised nearly $13 million from people at oil-and-gas companies in this election cycle.

Not only is that nearly 13 times the $976,000 the industry has donated to Biden, it is also more than people in the industry have given Republicans in all of the last three presidential races.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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AOC Will Play “Among Us” With Pokimane and Others To “Get Out the Vote”

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  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if anyone wanted to play “Among Us” with her on Twitch in an effort to encourage voting.
  • She’s already publicly agreed to play with Pokimane, Hasan Pike, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, but no other players have been confirmed yet.
  • Internet stars who showed interest included James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Dr Lupo, and several others.
  • The congresswoman has created a Twitch channel in preparation for the stream, which she said could happen Tuesday night.
  • AOC isn’t the only Democrat using video games to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has made headlines for releasing 2020 yard signs and creating its own headquarters in “Animal Crossing.”


AOC Issues a Call for “Among Us” Players

Internet stars are jumping at the chance to stream a game of “Among Us” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Twitch this week.

“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted out Monday.

I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun,” she added before asking, “Who would you want to watch in a game together? ⬇️”

“Among Us” is a multiplayer murder mystery game that was released in 2018, but it recently became wildly popular thanks to various streamers and people trying to have fun with friends in this age of social distancing. 

While many streamers were quick to reply to AOC’s question, one of the biggest names catching attention was Pokimane, who has over 6 million Twitch followers.

“It’d be an honor,” she tweeted back.

“Let’s do it!” Ocasio-Cortez replied, saying she’ll set up her account and get equipment together.

Other Creators Show Interest

Aside from Pokimane, AOC also publicly agreed to play with streamer and political commentator Hasan Piker, as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

It’s unclear how many people she’s looking to bring together, but a game of “Among Us” can have up to 10 players.

Other huge creators throwing their names into the hat include James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Lazarbeam, and Dr Lupo.

However, as of now, no other players have been publicly confirmed. AOC set up her Twitch channel last night, which already has nearly 200,000 followers.

She said she spent time setting up mods and doing run-throughs but plans to go live sometime Tuesday night.

Democrats Using Video Games To Reach Young Voters

It will be interesting to see who participates and what kind of viewership this event brings in. Many agree that the steam could prove to be a smart way to reach younger Americans before the election, a base AOC is especially good at communicating with.

Although she admittedly hasn’t played this particular game before, video games aren’t exactly outside her realm of interests. In fact, she previously opened up about loving to play “League of Legends.” 

Ocasio-Cortez is also far from the only Democrat-leaning into video games as a way to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has taken a similar approach with the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

Biden-Harris Yard Signs in “Animal Crossing”

Last month, they released official yard signs through the game, and just this month, the campaign launched Joe Biden’s virtual headquarters– an entire island where users could connect with his campaign, 

A field office in Biden’s HQ

According to Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden-Harris campaign: “The island includes plenty of ice cream, trains, aviators, chucks, swag, and more weaved throughout the entire island — but there are also features that encourage players to organize and mobilize.”

For example, it included ads for the DNC’s “I Will Vote” website as well as an election day checklist, among other features. Biden’s character even walks across the island so players can take virtual selfies with him.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Verge) (CNET)

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