Key takeaways from the New York Times' investigation into Trump's taxes while in office
During his 2016 campaign and during his tenure, President Donald Trump made repeated promises to "drain the swamp". The phrase signaled many a desire to change Washington's widespread political culture.
In office, Trump has reportedly done the opposite, according to a recent New York Times survey of federal taxes across the Trump organization.
Here are some of the most notable revelations from the investigation, which found that over 200 corporations, lobby groups, and overseas governments partnered with and benefited from Trump's companies.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told the Times in response to her reporting that Trump was out of step with the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization. Eric and Don. Jr remained in charge of the family business, he said.
"The president has kept his promise to the American people every day to fight for them, drain the swamp and always put America first," Deere said.
New York Times investigation: President Donald Trump's tax returns
Trump did not resign from the family business
After his 2016 election victory, Trump vowed to withdraw from the day-to-day activities of the Trump Organization and leave the family business in the hands of his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
However, the Times noted that Trump occasionally notified managers at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that he was briefed on their accomplishments. In Mar-a-Lago, the president reportedly increased prices for new members to join the club at least twice during his first term.
Trump also sometimes examined the details of club memberships and operations while serving as president. According to a former administration official quoted by the Times, Eric Trump was known to brief his father about the Trump organization.
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Trump family businesses made millions before he took office
The Times' interviews with nearly 250 business executives, lobbyists and representatives of the Trump administration detailed how Trump interacted with monetary interests before and during his presidency.
The Times said nearly a quarter of the customers in its report had not previously been reported by other outlets.
According to the Times, 60 customers with business interests in Trump brought nearly $ 12 million to the Trump organization prior to taking office in the first two years of Trump's presidency.
While many of these interviews stated that Trump's advocacy of their interests was unrelated to their business with the Trump organization, almost all of them saw some benefit from the federal government after Trump took office.
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The tax filings found that the club's charter fees in 2016 generated approximately $ 6 million in revenue for the organization.
Mar-a-Lago is an important lobby site
The Times report also found that many of Trump's employees who had lobbied for his resorts had also been elevated to political primacy in Washington.
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These clients ranged from political leaders in the Dominican Republic of Nigeria and Ukraine to large private prison and agricultural companies. Each of the foreign officials and domestic firms who did business with Ballard's company saw remarkable material benefits from the administration.
Much of that lobbying has been done in and through connections at the Trump Organization's Doral and Mar-a-Lago resorts in Florida.
Access to Trump through Mar-a-Lago was common
Trump spent much of his time in office in one of his organization's buildings. The Times investigation found that his frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago made him and high-ranking officials easily accessible to the resort's members, many of whom had joined with the express aim of lobbying the president.
Trump spent nearly 400 days of his presidency at one of the family's hotels and hotels during his presidency, which offers plenty of opportunities for such lobbying in Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere.
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Customers have established their patronage in religious terms
Evangelical elites and other prominent social conservatives are among the president's most ardent supporters and regular customers. The organization's Washington hotel has become a major hub of religious gatherings, fundraisers, and tours for conservative Christian groups during Trump's presidency.
Many religious conservatives have explicitly linked their support for the president's business and administration to the president's socially conservative agenda. Some cited Trump's stance on conservative judges, abortion and Israel in interviews with the Times to explain their support.
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High-profile evangelical ministers also received VIP status at Trump Resorts, according to former staff who spoke to the Times.
Social media records Trump's commitment to lobbyists
Hundreds of social media posts checked by the Times also found that many of those seeking favor with the president had no need to hide their intentions. Many Trump real estate members and visitors often bragged about their access to the president.
"When he became president, everyone wanted to be around him," Jeff Greene, a Florida real estate developer and member of Mar-a-Lago, told The Times. "People like to be where presidents are."
The Times also found that over 20 officials, politicians and organizations from foreign groups had visited the Trump president and senior officials, often taking the opportunity to gain political favor on behalf of their country at home or in the lobby.
Many of these foreign politicians, many of whom were out of government in their home countries, would treat the informal interactions as official state visits or otherwise benefit from engagements that would give them an appearance on social media.
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Experts on the effects
Following the first part of the New York Times investigation, USA TODAY spoke to several experts about the report's findings, including their legality and implications for the president's chances of being elected. Overall, the President's behavior and that of his companies are likely legal, but extremely problematic.
"These tax returns are aggressive. The devil is in the details, but we don't have all of the details," said Francine Lipman, tax expert and professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas law school. "That doesn't mean it's tax fraud. But Trump is taking some very aggressive positions."
Here are the takeaways from what the experts said:
Massive deductions are not uncommon for real estate
Dan Geltrude, CPA, tax professional and founder of the accounting firm Geltrude & Company LLC of Nutley, New Jersey, says people living in investment real estate must make huge tax deductions for depreciation.
"There are ways to pay little tax. That is not Trump's fault. The IRS tax code is to blame," says Geltrude. "It is reasonable that he would want to limit his tax payments just like everyone else."
Trump's ongoing tax audit dispute with the Internal Revenue Service raises many questions.
"He's a seated president who gets to elect the IRS commissioner and secretary of the Treasury, and potentially owes $ 100 million. It stinks of a conflict of interest," Lipman said.
Fortune remains a mystery
Joshua Jenson, the managing partner of a CPA firm, Jenson & Company, said it was still difficult to pinpoint Trump's total assets despite the report. However, as with the recent revelations, they show how Trump makes money and what he owns.
"It is difficult to determine a person's wealth from tax returns," says Jenson. “However, when you have the business tax return, you can see the assets and liabilities which essentially represent the net worth of this business. But only on a book basis, not market value.
Overall, Trump's lack of taxes paid is an extreme example of what is possible under U.S. tax law.
"If you can find ways to deduct every act in society you do, you have essentially eliminated an income tax for yourself," Phil Hackney, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told USA TODAY. "That creates real problems because the employees can't. He found ways to deduct things that everyone else pays taxes on."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Key NYT Findings Examine Trump's Taxes in Office
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