The New York Times published another bombshell report on Trump’s finances last night.  They got their hands on nearly two decades of Trump tax returns, from 2000 through 2018, and cable news and social media have been exploding. Trump does not appear to be nearly as rich or successful as he claims to be (shocker!) and the businesses that he’s invested in since earning a mountain of money co-producing the Apprentice have mostly been huge losers.  Here are my three macro conclusions from their report:

  1. PERSONAL LIABILITY.  Trump paid no taxes in at least 10 of the years, and in 2016 he paid a mere $750.  It’s quite likely from the reporting that Trump’s taxes contained fraudulent expenses and/or under-reported income, either of which is a serious crime.
  2. LEGALLY SANCTIONED INEQUALITY.  While some of Trump’s tax tricks may have been illegal, his tax returns shine a spotlight on the profound breaks and loopholes built into our tax code to benefit the already-wealthy. These breaks are often written into law not because they make economic sense but because they are bought and paid for by the wealthy, who can fund political campaigns at a fraction of their tax savings.
  3. VULNERABLE TO EXTORTION.  Trump appears to owe at least $300 million that will come due within the next four years, and Forbes reported last night that they estimate the actual number is closer to $1 billion.  If true, Trump might put his own interests ahead of the country to dig himself out of debt, perhaps turning to foreign powers like Russia to refinance his loans, rather go broke trying to come up with the cash.  This is a national security nightmare.  

Joe Biden has almost $500 million cash on hand, and Michael Bloomberg recently committed $100 million to battle Trump in Florida on Biden’s behalf. Trump responded by threatening to put $100 million of his own money into the race, which now seems absurd in light of this report. Trump simply doesn’t have that kind of cash on hand. You can view the entire report here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html

The New York Times made their own list of key findings from their report. They are:

  • Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.
  • He has reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Many of his signature businesses, including his golf courses, report losing large amounts of money — losses that have helped him to lower his taxes.
  • The financial pressure on him is increasing as hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he personally guaranteed are soon coming due.
  • Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television.
  • Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill.
  • As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known. The records do not reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

Trump has already responded with his usual “Fake news, fake news” malarkey, but the Times’ article comports with a lot of other reporting on Trump’s finances, as well as statements from people close to him, like former lawyer Michael Cohen. And while the report won’t change the mind of a single Trump cult member, it could have a material impact on the small but important bloc of America’s undecided voters. The volume of information obtained by the Times was so massive, there will likely be further revelations as people continue to sift through the numbers.

Public opinion is also going against Trump on the Supreme Court vacancy. A clear majority of American voters think the new justice should be decided after the election by the next president. The rapid nomination of radical religious conservative Amy Coney Barrett in the hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death is taking a political toll on Trump and the Republicans, though it’s still not clear if Democrats in Congress will be able to do anything to prevent her confirmation. The only significant weapon the Democrats possess is an impeachment proceeding, which brings the Senate to a halt by rule. But impeaching Trump again would be politically risky–though the tax revelations might make it a little easier. Another option would be to impeach Attorney General William Barr. A good case can be made that he lied to Congress, and his misdeeds as Attorney General have clearly betrayed his oath of office. But the Democrats probably care too much about how they are perceived by Republicans and moderate voters to take any truly forceful or aggressive action, which is tragic.

The confirmation of Barrett to the SCOTUS will not be a setback for liberals. It will be a catastrophic defeat. And it will be a defeat that can’t be undone for decades, unless the Democrats expand the court, which is also extremely controversial. Barrett on the bench would mean that any meaningful legislation on climate, women’s reproductive rights, gun control or universal healthcare would be next to impossible to accomplish. Even if we held Congress and the White House, the laws we pass will be invalidated by a radical-right activist court whose warped and grotesque interpretation of the Constitution is incompatible with progress on a large scale. At best, certain states might be able to pass just and progressive laws for their citizens, but the role of the federal government in creating a safer, more equitable and more financially fair nation will be curtailed.

So we don’t need Speaker Pelosi or Senator Schumer to be indignant or annoyed in this moment. We need them to understand that we are on the brink of a monumental cultural defeat that will have devastating consequences for millions of our citizens for decades to come–and act accordingly. Maybe Schumer doesn’t have the tools at his disposal to stop Barrett from being seated. But Pelosi does. And if those tools aren’t used and Barrett is seated, Pelosi and Schumer should be held at least partly responsible. Both are great leaders and politicians, but unless they use every tool available–as Grim Reaper McConnell always does–we’ll suffer a defeat that renders any other subsequent effort pointless and moot.

Reminder: Tomorrow is the first debate between Biden and Trump.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

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