by David Hamilton ’17
For years now, President Donald Trump has faced an incredible amount of criticism, especially regarding the legitimacy of his fortune. When it comes to a billionaire running for the most powerful office in the world, questions tend to arise about how that person got to where they are and whether or not it was done responsibly. With Forbes estimating Trump’s net worth at $3.1 billion, alongside a history of highly controversial behavior, it would be irresponsible of the nation not to question Trump’s past financial behavior.
Many of these concerns regarding the President’s behavioral history have come to light, but not many questions have been answered with a reliable response. That was until the New York Times conducted an 18-month investigation anyway. Now, the “self-made billionaire” is facing some very strong evidence that is jeopardizing his image.
This New York Times investigation, being incredibly thorough, started with Donald Trump’s parents, more specifically his father, Fred. Fred gave Donald the equivalent of $413 million from his real estate empire, but it’s not so much the amount of money as it is how it got there. The use of various tax schemes and fraud allowed this money to come about. With over $1 billion transferred from the President’s parents to their children, it should have incurred a 55 percent tax, but only paid 5 percent according to the tax returns. Obviously, every member of the Trump family stated that everything was filed properly when asked, but the Times has found evidence otherwise. Not releasing his income tax returns has made the truth much more difficult to reveal. The confidential documents reviewed by the Times proved that more than legal tax avoidance techniques were used in their business activities over the years. Any transfer of funds between the family members often got away without taxation, which helped Trump become a millionaire by age 8.
Another significant find includes the “small loan” of $1 million dollars that Trump claimed gave him his start, allowing him to build what he has today from the ground up. The records found showed a loan from Fred Trump of over $60 million instead, which would be $140 million in today’s world, with very little paid back to him. This is among a long line of support from Fred Trump over the years, much of which should have incurred some taxation but didn’t due to loopholes and other workarounds according to the Times.
Lastly among the more significant findings of the investigation, Donald Trump played a role in preventing the Fred Trump real estate empire and millions in cash from being susceptible to the 55 percent tax. Donald originally presented a document to Fred that both angered him and the rest of the Trump family, but with this looming risk, the family moved forward. Donald Trump played a central role, alongside the rest of his family, in producing a strategy for avoiding the heavy inheritance tax above with tax strategies that appeared to be fraudulent, according to experts.
The New York Times conducted their most extensive and time-consuming investigation to date on the sitting President of the United States and seemed to come up with some strong evidence supporting the notion that he was evasive over the years. While there are definitely conclusions presented in the investigation that could be controversial and may not be able to be proven in a court of law, there seems to be too much going on to simply ignore. This does not stand alone either. This contributes to the long line of controversial statements and behaviors since the beginning of the Trump presidency, never mind those occurring before.
A President is seen as not only the spokesperson of a nation, but a role model and a leader, someone who can represent a country’s ideals, culture, and most importantly, its people. The question now to be posed to the people of the United States is whether or not President Donald Trump has and will continue to represent the American people effectively. Questions like this will be asked in the coming debates for 2020 and answer can be drawn from the outcomes of the midterm elections. In the 2020 election, the people need to stand up, speak, and vote.
Photo by Gage Skidmore