Connect with us

Politics

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

Published

on

  • 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)

Politics

House Panel Approves Commission To Study Reparations

Published

on

  • In a 25 to 17 vote along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would establish a commission to study slavery reparations for Black Americans.
  • Republicans objected to the plan, arguing that it will cost too much money and that it is unfair to make all American taxpayers responsible for the consequences of slavery.
  • Democrats pushed back, claiming the modern oppression of Black people still holds roots in slavery, and noting that the bill just creates a commission to study reparations, not implement them.
  • While the proposal faces steep odds in the Senate, Wednesday’s historic vote will move the measure to the House floor for a full vote for the first time since it was introduced over three decades ago. 

Reparation Commission Achieves First Approval

The House Judiciary Committee voted for the first time on Wednesday to advance a bill that will create a commission to consider paying slavery reparations for Black Americans.

The legislation was first proposed over 30 years ago, and if signed into law, it would create a 13-member commission that would study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S. and then give Congress a recommendation for “appropriate remedies” to best compensate Black Americans.

The measure passed the committee 25 to 17 along party lines, as expected, with objections from Republicans, who claimed reparations will cost too much and that they are unfair to Americans who have no history of enslavers in their families.

Democrats pushed back against those assertions, arguing that the federal government does have enough money to take some kind of action. They also noted that the commission will not actually implement any reparations, but rather just look into the options and then make a non-binding recommendation.

There are a lot of different ideas for what reparations could look like. While some support direct cash payments of various sizes, others have argued there are different proposals that might be more realistic to put into law, like no-interest loans for Black homeowners or free college tuition.

“I ask my friends on the other side of the aisle, do not cancel us tonight. Do not ignore the pain, the history and the reasonableness of this commission,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday.

Others also condemned the argument that some Americans, particularly those whose ancestors did not directly benefit from owning slaves, should not bear responsibility. They said that this line of thinking ignores both generational wealth, which vastly benefits white Americans over all others, as well as how Black Americans are hurt by modern-day discrimination and oppression that has roots in slavery.

“Slavery was indeed ended 150 years ago but racism never took a day off and is alive and well in America,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said in committee Wednesday. 

“You can ask the family members of Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. Black folks in this country cannot keep living and dying like this. But we’ll be forced to do so if White folks in America continue to refuse to look back at history.”

Uphill Battle

While many have described the legislation as a flexible first step, any further congressional action will almost certainly be an uphill battle. The committee vote is just the very first step: the proposal still has to go to a vote by the full House, where it is unclear if it will even garner enough support among the House Democrats’ slim majority. 

If it were to pass the lower chamber, the bill faces almost insurmountable odds in the 50-50 split Senate, where ten Republicans would have to join all Democrats to break the legislative filibuster.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said that he will start considering when to schedule the vote, though it is unlikely to be considered soon. Hoyer also urged President Joe Biden to use his executive power to create the commission if the legislation fails.

The White House has said that Biden supports the commission, but administration officials have not confirmed whether he would act unilaterally on the subject.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (Vox)

Continue Reading

Politics

Biden To Pull All U.S. Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11

Published

on

  • President Biden declared Wednesday that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which also marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
  • The Afghanistan war is the longest war the U.S. has ever been in. It has resulted in the deaths of 2,400 American troops, injured and killed almost 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.
  • Some praised the decision as a key step to address seemingly endless wars and promote diplomacy.
  • Many experts and defense officials, however, have warned the withdrawal could undermine American goals in the region and embolden the Taliban, which is currently the strongest it has been since the U.S. invasion removed the group from power in 2001.

Biden Announces Troop Removal Amid Growing Violence

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that drew the U.S. into its longest war in history.

“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” Biden said in an afternoon speech. “It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for America’s troops to come home.’’

The decision comes as Biden nears the May 1 deadline set under a February 2020 peace deal by the administration of former President Donald Trump to bring the troops home from the war, which has killed nearly 2,400 troops, injured and killed nearly 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.

Biden had previously said that it would be hard to meet the date after taking office, but even with the extended timeline, many experts and defense officials have warned against the move.

The U.S. first entered the war to oust the Taliban government, which was harboring al-Qaeda militants involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban was removed within months, but the group still had support in parts of the country and steadily regained territory and strength.

Now, almost two decades later, the group is the strongest it has been since the 2001 invasion, and according to reports, controls or has influence over half the country. The situation has also escalated in the months after Trump, during his last week in office, reduced the official number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, which is the lowest level since 2001.

As the U.S. has scaled down its operations, the Taliban has taken control of major highways and tried to cut off cities and towns in surges that have exhausted Afghan security forces. Violence has also ramped up in recent months.

According to a U.N. report released Wednesday, nearly 1,800 civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of the year, a nearly 30% increase from the same period last year.

Notably, U.S. intelligence agencies have said that they do not believe Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations present an immediate threat to strike the U.S. from Afghanistan, an assessment that reportedly played a big role in Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces.

However, many experts are more concerned about how the move will impact Afghanistan and its citizens. 

Concerns Over Withdrawal

The Pentagon has warned against removing American troops from the region until Afghan security forces can effectively fight back against the Taliban.

As a result, critics of the plan have argued that withdrawal will leave the forces  — which have limited capacities and until now have been funded and trained by the U.S. — entirely in the dust

Beyond that, many also worry that the move could undermine the entire goal of the 2001 invasion by empowering al-Qaeda operates that remains in the country and who could become emboldened once the U.S. troops left.

Some experts and Afghan politicians have said that withdrawing from the country without a solid peace deal in place could end in concentrating more power in the hands of the Taliban. After a long delay following the U.S. agreement in February of last year, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban finally started up in September.

But those talks have since stalled, partly due to Biden’s win and the anticipation of a possible change in policy under the new administration.

While other countries have recently made moves to restart the talks, and there are a number of possible options on the table, nothing is set in stone. American commanders, who have long said a peace deal with the Taliban is the best security measure for the U.S., have argued that the U.S. will need to use the promise of withdrawing their forces as a condition for a good deal.

Now, the U.S. has taken a major bargaining chip off the table, causing concerns that if a deal is struck, the already weakened Afghan government will make key concessions to the Taliban. Many Afghan citizens who oppose the Taliban worry that if the group secures a role in a power-sharing agreement, it could eventually take over the government and re-impose the harsh rule it imposed before the U.S. removed it in 2001. The leadership was particularly tough on women, who were largely barred from public life.

Politicians Respond

Biden’s decision has sparked a divided front from both political parities, though Republicans have largely remained united against the move.

“It is insane to withdraw at this time given the conditions that exist on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday. “A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11.”

Many Democrats, however, have argued that U.S. presence in the region is not helping the U.S. achieve its foreign policy goals, and that if withdrawal is based on conditional approaches, the troops will never be able to leave. 

Others have also applauded the plan as a careful solution and will still emphasize diplomatic efforts in the region while simultaneously removing the U.S. from a highly unpopular and expensive war.

“The President doesn’t want endless wars. I don’t want endless wars. And neither do the American people. ” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “It’s refreshing to have a thought-out plan with a set timetable instead of the President waking up one morning getting out of bed, saying what just pops into his head and then having the generals having walked it back.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said had spoken to Biden, and emphasized that the two nations would continue to work together.

“’Afghanistan’s proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along,” he wrote.

The Taliban, for its part, has focused more on the fact that the initial timeline had been delayed.

“We are not agreeing with delay after May 1,” a spokesperson said on television Tuesday. “Any delay after May 1 is not acceptable for us.”

It is currently unclear how that stance might affect the situation, especially when it comes to peace deal negotiations.

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

Continue Reading

Politics

Matt Gaetz Reportedly Venmo’d Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Sent Money To Teen

Published

on

  • A report published by The Daily Beast Thursday alleges that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) sent $900 through Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the funds to pay three young women, including one teenager.
  • Gaetz is currently under federal investigation as part of a broader inquiry into Greenberg, a former politician who has been charged with 33 counts, including sex trafficking an underage girl.
  • Investigators are reportedly looking into the involvement of politicians with women who were recruited online for sex and paid in cash, as well as whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws by paying for her to travel with him.
  • Greenberg’s lawyer did not comment on the new allegations but said Thursday his client would soon enter a plea deal and implied that Greenberg would testify as a witness against Gaetz. Meanwhile, Gaetz has accused The Daily Beast of spreading “rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements.”

Gaetz’s Alleged Venmo Payments 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly sent money via Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the money to pay three young women, including at least one teenage girl, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.

Greenberg, a former local Flordia politician and an associate of Gaetz, was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his lawyers said in court Thursday that he would plead guilty as part of a plea deal.

Legal experts say the move almost certainly indicates that Greenberg plans to cooperate as a witness against Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department as part of a broader probe into Greenberg.

According to The New York Times, among other things, the DOJ inquiry is looking into their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and paid cash, as well as whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him in violation of sex trafficking laws.

Investigators reportedly believe that Greenberg met the women through a website for people willing to go on dates in exchange for gifts and money, and then arranged for them to meet with himself and associates including Gaetz, The Times reported.

The new report from The Daily Beast, published Thursday, appears to support this narrative. According to the outlet, which viewed the transactions before they were made private this week, Gaetz sent Greenberg two late-night Venmo payments totaling $900 in May 2018. 

In the text field of the first payment, Gaetz wrote “Test.” In the second, he asked Greenberg to “hit up” a teenager who he allegedly referred to by her nickname. The Daily Beast did not publish the name of the girl “because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.”

The next morning, Greenberg transferred a total of $900 to three different young women using the same app.

One of the transfers was titled “Tuition,” and the other two were both listed as “School.” The Daily Beast also said it was able to obtain “partial records” of Greenbergs Venmo, which is not publicly available.

Those records, the outlet reported, show that the two men are connected through Venmo to at least one other woman who Greenberg paid with a government-funded credit card, and at least two other women who received payments from Greenberg.

Ongoing Investigation

Gaetz, for his part, has not directly addressed the latest allegations. A representative from the Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm, provided The Daily Beast with a statement from the congressman.

“The rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements of others will be addressed in due course by my legal team,” the statement said, with the firm also informing the outlet that their lawyers would be “closely monitoring your coverage.”

Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, also declined requests to comment, but during a press conference Thursday, he implied that the plea deal his client is expected to accept spelled trouble for Gaetz.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.

The Daily Beast story also comes amid reports that that the FBI has widened its probe of Gaetz. According to The Times, sources familiar with the inquiry have said investigators are also looking into a trip he took to the Bahamas with other Florida Republicans and several women.

Sources said the trip took place shortly after Gaetz was elected to Congress in 2016, and that the FBI has already questioned witnesses about whether the women had sex with the men in exchange for money and free travel.

It is illegal to trade sex for something of value if prosecutors can provide the exchange involved force, fraud, or coercion.

The Times also reported that investigators are now additionally looking into Gaetz’s alleged involvement in discussions to run a third-party candidate in a State Senate race to make it easier for an associate of his who was running for the seat to win.

The act of recruiting so-called “ghost candidates” who run for office purely to divert votes from one candidate is not usually illegal. However, paying a ghost candidate is normally considered a violation of campaign finance laws.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (The New York Times) (The Hill)

Continue Reading