Trump’s taxes raise questions about his company’s influence on US foreign policy


The entanglements between President Donald Trump’s foreign policy and his world affairs have long been a baffling feature of his tenure in the White House, sparking ethical concerns – as well as fears that allies and adversaries could use these companies to manipulate the government. executive power. The New York Times landmark report of Trump’s taxes over the past two decades has helped reveal the nature of some of these overseas ties – and they are more extensive than the president has suggested.

According to revelations, Trump – who broke decades of precedent by refusing to publicly release his tax returns – brought in $ 73 million from around the world in his first two years in office. Much of this money came from its golf clubs in Scotland and Ireland. But he also received cash from countries crucial to his administration’s global goals, like $ 3 million from the Philippines, $ 2.3 million from India, and $ 1 million from Turkey.

The returns also show that Trump’s empire generated more foreign income than previously known. Over the past two decades, for example, Trump has earned at least $ 13 million in a two-round licensing deal in Turkey; a similar deal in the Philippine capital of Manila was worth $ 9.3 million; and he won $ 5 million in a botched hotel project in Azerbaijan, about double what he revealed in an ethics brief.

Additionally, in 2017, Trump paid hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes to foreign countries like Panama, India, and the Philippines than to the United States, where he paid a whopping $ 750. .

Trump has made a lot of money from foreign sources since becoming president

None of the president’s overseas profits are terribly surprising, as Trump’s hundreds of companies have continued their work as usual since he became president of the United States.

In 2017, The Washington Post detailed how Trump licensed millions of his name for real estate projects around the world. Congressional committees have revealed that foreign governments have booked rooms at the Trump Hotel in Washington ahead of official meetings.

And Open Secrets, a research group on the influence of money in politics, reported in 2019 that Trump had $ 130 million in foreign assets at the end of his second year in office. His most recent personal financial disclosures, spanning from 2016 to 2019, showed revenues of up to $ 4.1 million came from India, up to $ 7 million came from Turkey and up to $ 5 million. of Philippine dollars, according to researchers.

“Trump continues to profit from his foreign business interests,” Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets told me, adding that the Times report had helped shed light on how he was doing it, “as well as other financial tangles on the which he pays taxes. ”

However, Massoglia noted, “There are a lot of loopholes because he hasn’t disclosed his tax returns. These personal tax returns would provide an even more detailed picture than the documents collected by The Times.

The Times tax return story, however, still shows that Trump has earned – and still earns – more money from other countries than he has publicly admitted. This is worrying, especially since it could interfere negatively with his work as president and his duties as the undisputed authority on American foreign policy.

As Mieke Eoyang, a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and now senior vice-chairman of the Third Way think tank in Washington, tweeted after the story was published: “Our national security officials must act in the best interests of the country and not in that of their foreign creditors.

Why the history of tax filing is so worrying for U.S. foreign policy

Trump criticized the authoritarian leaders of the three main countries cited by the Times report: the Philippines, India and Turkey. It’s less clear now whether the bonhomie stems from their diplomatic relations or because they run lucrative nations for the president.

Turkey is perhaps the best example of this conundrum.

Trump said last year he was a “big fan” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but their relationship has run into some issues with Ankara’s attacks on US allies in Syria and his illegal imprisonment of a pastor American.

When US-Turkish relations were weak, The Times recalled a few curiosities:

[In 2018,] a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s hotel in Washington; Six months later, when both countries were in better conditions, the postponed event was attended by Turkish government officials. Turkish Airlines has also chosen the Trump National Golf Club in suburb of Virginia to host an event [in 2017].

In other words, countries like Turkey can potentially find ways for Trump’s heart to ensure that the money goes into his family’s pocket in the hope of changing U.S. foreign policy. The Trump Organization therefore gives nations unprecedented additional leverage to influence an American president.

The money flowing in Trump’s pockets may answer the question Trump himself asked reporter Bob Woodward in an interview for the book Rage. “Funny, the relationships I have, the harder and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,” Trump told Woodward of his relationship with authoritarian leaders, including Erdoğan. “Explain that to me one day, okay?”

Perhaps also to smooth the way, as the New York Times notes, other nations have placed former Trump associates in positions of power. For example, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made the businessman behind Trump Tower in Manila a special envoy for trade to the United States, and the Argentine government appointed someone who was instrumental in Trump’s licensing deal in Uruguay to a cabinet post.

The implication of such measures is that some foreign governments have altered their operations and personnel just to appeal to the president (as the saying goes: personnel is policy). And these decisions make it clear that Trump’s businesses are not just a secondary nuisance and an ethical dilemma – they are central to how some parts of the world interact with the United States during this administration.

This is all a problem. Yes, foreign governments that funnel money to companies linked to the president are against federal law. But since such a rule violation does not – and probably will not lead – to immediate action, the biggest concern is whether the president is making decisions based on his private interests, and not those of the public, then he subdues the demands of the United States. foreign policy for the bottom line of his family’s affairs.

This problem becomes more acute when you factor in Trump’s $ 421 million debt, much of which is owed over the next four years. His does not know exactly to whom he owes this money, but it is not unreasonable given the scope of the Trump organization’s foreign operations to assume some of the debt held by foreign lenders like Deutsche Bank, which has loaned Trump’s businesses several hundred million dollars. dollars in recent years. These debts could mean that Trump has financial concerns on his mind during discussions between officials and his counterparts.

Making sure foreign powers don’t leverage government officials is the reason Eoyang noted on Twitter: “Debt is one of the factors that go into denying a security clearance. External debt is a wake-up call. “

Because of the New York Times, this red flag – among other things – flies a lot.


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