Deadhead1155- with the election behind us my plans are to get back to writing my blog and not posting others works that much. Hang in there these past 4 years have been exhausting. I’m taking some mental health time. In the meantime my eyes caught this today and since it affects the whole world read on.
A new report examines how plastic waste affects marine wildlife.
The authors focused on sea turtles and marine mammals for practical reasons. These animals are federally protected, so when they are found in distress or wash up dead on a beach, responders are required to document it. By collecting data from government agencies and marine life organizations around the country, the authors found almost 1,800 cases of plastic entanglement or ingestion affecting 40 species since 2009.
But the report notes that the number is “a gross underestimate” because humans observe a tiny fraction of animal deaths in the ocean. Even so, of the nation’s 23 coastal states, it found cases in 21.
“This is the first time we’re looking at the problem from a U.S. perspective,” said Kimberly Warner, the report’s author and a senior scientist at Oceana. “This brings the problem home.”
The Oceana report found that in the reported cases, 90 percent of the animals had swallowed plastic, and the rest were entangled in it. Necropsies often showed that the animals had died from blockages or lacerations. Other times, ingesting plastic may have simply weakened the animal or played no role in its death. Overall, in 82 percent of the cases, the animals died.
The culprits go beyond the usual suspects.
In the 1980s, environmental activists warned of the devastating effects of six-pack rings ensnaring sea animals. People started dutifully cutting them before disposal, and in 1994 the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that six-pack rings must be degradable, though the process may take months. Consumers have also been warned about releasing balloons, which can harm marine animals.
Recently some municipalities, counties and states have banned single-use plastic bags, one of the biggest contributors to ingestion and entanglements, according to the report. Plastic packing straps were found constricting the necks or bodies of seals and sea lions, naturally curious animals who may have gotten entangled while trying to play. Manatees ingested lots of fishing line.
But the report also found many more surprising items caused harm. Along the Gulf Coast, mesh produce bags were found in the guts of sea turtles and also entangling their bodies. In 2015, a loggerhead turtle in Georgia was found with a toothbrush and fork in its digestive tract, among other items. Two years later, another turtle was found in New York with a plastic dental flosser inside it. Food wrappers, sandwich bags, sponges, and even decorative plastic Easter grass were among the items discovered. A bottlenose dolphin in North Carolina had its head stuck in the hole of a flying disc. In Virginia, a DVD case lacerated the stomach of a sei whale.
Many of the victims are endangered or threatened.
More than a dozen species at risk of extinction — including sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals and sei whales — ingested or were tangled in plastic. Manatees, those gentle, slow-moving giants that graze on seagrass, made up 700 cases. The report quotes Brandon Bassett, a biologist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, describing part of what he found inside one dead manatee: “Imagine a ball of plastic bags in the stomach, about the size of a cantaloupe, and then a bunch of plastic bags that were wrapped and almost like a rope that was about 3 feet long.”
Scientists are learning more about why animals consume plastic. To sea turtles, a floating plastic bag may resemble a jellyfish meal, but that doesn’t explain the bottle caps and hard plastic shards found in their digestive tracts or stool. One study suggested that plastic starts to smell appetizing as it becomes coated in algae and microorganisms.
In South Carolina, one ailing loggerhead passed almost 60 pieces of plastic through its digestive system during its rehabilitation at a sea turtle center. Juveniles are more at risk because of their size and undeveloped gastrointestinal tract. More than 20 percent of the sea turtles that had ingested plastic were just months old. Some were only a few days old. A recent Australian study found that just 14 pieces of plastic in their digestive tracts significantly increased sea turtles’ risk of death.
Still, plastic waste is not the biggest killer of marine life.
Humans have created all kinds of dire problems for sea animals: rising sea temperatures, fishermen hauling in unintended species, ship striking them, other marine pollution and habitat degradation.
“Plastic in and of itself may not be as big of a threat as we’re led to believe,” said Jesse Senko, an assistant research professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University. “The scientific community has not done a good enough job of really assessing these questions, looking beyond how it affects an individual animal.”
Ultimately, plastics and rising sea temperatures are connected; after all, the vast majority of plastic is derived from fossil fuels.
The Oceana report calls on national, state and local governments to restrict the production of single-use plastics and it asks companies to offer consumers plastic-free options.
“I’m old enough to remember a time when it didn’t permeate everything in my life,” Dr. Warner said. “And yet it’s built up at an alarming rate.”
Catrin Einhorn reports on wildlife and extinction for the Climate desk. She has also worked on the Investigations desk, where she was part of the Times team that received the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its reporting on sexual harassment. @catrineinhorn
There will be more than a few conservatives who will spend the next 30 years trying to prove the election was stolen. Others will insist Donald Trump would have won save for a deep state, the liberal media and disloyal Never Trumpers. And many will argue that Trump was a successful conservative president who scored important policy victories and broadened the G.O.P. base, only to run aground on a once-in-a-century pandemic that would have wrecked any presidency.
Reality is otherwise. Trump’s loss is entirely on him — albeit in ways that roundly indict the conservative movement that made him its hero.
About the loss: It was narrow when seen narrowly in the vote tallies of battleground states. It was broad when seen broadly.
He lost the Midwestern states that gave him his victory four years ago. He appears to have lost Georgia, which he carried easily four years ago, as well as Arizona, which no sitting Republican president has lost since 1932. What ground he gained among Latino and Black voters, according to early exit poll data, he more than lost among white men, particularly those with college degrees, not to mention seniors.
Certain half-clever conservative commentators have noted that Trump improved on his 2016 vote total by several million votes. But Joe Biden improved on Hillary Clinton’s total by even more.
Most remarkable: Trump lost despite 56 percent of Americans saying they were better off now than they were four years ago, according to a Gallup survey from September. He lost despite Republicans gaining seats in the House, doing well at the state level and having reasonable hopes of holding the Senate. He lost despite the damage that progressive rhetoric about defunding the police and banning fracking did to some Democrats. He lost despite all the usual advantages of incumbency.
Trump lost for two main and mutually reinforcing reasons. The first is that he’s immoral — manifestly, comprehensively and unrepentantly.
The immorality didn’t just repel his political opponents. It enraged them, inspired them, drove them to the polls and gave Biden exactly the opening he needed to run on a winning message of unity and decency.
Trump’s immorality also blinded him to his opportunities. He could have mended fences with his opponents. Instead, he consistently sought to humiliate them in ways that proved self-defeating: Think of John McCain and the Obamacare repeal vote. He could have spent the past eight months as the nation’s consoler in chief, a role nearly every past president has gracefully played. Instead, he went from denier in chief, to quack doctor in chief, to false promise maker in chief — everything, that is, except the steady and compassionate figure the country desperately needed in the White House.
The second reason Trump lost is that conservatives never tried to check his immorality. They rationalized, excused, enabled and ultimately celebrated it. For Trump’s presidency to have had even a faint chance of succeeding, he needed his allies and fellow travelers to provide reality checks and expressions of disapproval, including occasions of outright revolt. What he mainly got was an echo chamber.
The process began before Trump’s election, when conservative pundits thrilled to the idea that Trump’s serial violations of moral and ethical norms were signs of strength and authenticity, as opposed to simple depravity.Just as ignorance was strength in George Orwell’s “1984,” shamelessness became virtue in Trump’s G.O.P. The strategy of moral inversion appeared to be vindicated four years ago, since none of Trump’s successive scandals prevented his victory.
In Trump’s conservative universe, nearly everyone became a lickspittle. Among his fervent supporters, or those who drew better ratings or poll numbers from his presidency, this was at least understandable. They had TV careers to preserve, political jobs to fill, a cult leader to worship.
Less forgivable was the political Manichaeism turned into moral nihilism: When the left is always, definitionally, “worse than the right,” then the right feels entitled to permit itself everything, no matter how badly it trashes conservative policies (outreach to North Korea), betrays conservative principles (trade tariffs), debases the office (arms-for-dirt with Ukraine) or shames the nation (child separation). Stalinists used to justify their crimes in much the same way.
The historic irony here is that these permission slips for Trump served the master ill. Who in the White House had the clout of someone like James Baker to set the president straight and serve as something more than a yes-man? And who in the broader conservative world — someone Trump might have seen on Fox, for instance — could explain that attempting to fool all of the people all of the time was a losing strategy? Did Rupert Murdoch or Mitch McConnell ever put in an admonitory word?
For America, this failure to do much more than flatter, defend and delude Trump these past four years is a blessing. For conservatives, it calls for a reckoning.
Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. Facebook
Opinion by Eugene Robinson. November 02 at 4:37 PM EST. Washington Post
Boarding up storefronts in the days before an election isn’t something we do in this country. Supporters of one presidential candidate don’t use their vehicles to create havoc on major highways or to threaten a bus filled with supporters of the other candidate. We don’t go into Election Day wondering if all the votes will be counted — or if everyone will accept the outcome. We don’t turn a deadly pandemic into a political issue. None of this happens in the self-proclaimed greatest democracy on Earth. Until now. It is tempting to blame all the chaos and conflict we’re living through on President Trump — and to hope that if Trump is defeated, things will snap back to the old normal. But Trump is a mere symptom, not the disease itself. As he campaigns for Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama has riffed on a memorable line from his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama: “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” More than that, the Trump presidency has revealed who we are as a nation. If Biden’s superpower as a politician is empathy, Trump’s is shamelessness. He has zero respect for the guardrails that long proscribed our political life.
Not so long ago, a public official caught in a lie had some explaining to do and some contrition to display; Trump simply repeats the lie, confident that many of his followers will believe it. He claims that he can lose only if the election is somehow riddled with fraud. And when a caravan of Trump supporters dangerously surrounded a Biden campaign bus on a Texas highway Friday — an incident now being investigated by the FBI — it was no surprise that Trump reacted by calling those reckless drivers “patriots” and saying they “did nothing wrong.” What continues to be surprising and disturbing is the wider Trump effect: the way he gives both his supporters and his opponents permission to say and do things they might once have considered beyond the pale. At rallies, that means encouraging ritual chants of “Lock her up!” or “Lock him up!” about Trump’s political opponents. This week, the Trump effect looked like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsing road rage as a political tactic, saying “Did you see it? All the cars on the road? We love what they did.” But if Trump revealed this ugliness, he didn’t invent it. A segment of the White population, especially in rural areas and small towns, was already alienated from political and cultural “elites” in the big, globalized urban centers — and increasingly anxious about lost status and power in a nation rapidly becoming more diverse. Unjustified police violence and unaddressed systemic racism had already brought many Black Americans to the boil-over point — and Trump devoted himself to turning up the temperature. Our politics had already become more tribal, with too many Americans looking to politicians to provide them with a sense of affirmation and superiority rather than with carefully considered policy proposals that might benefit the entire nation. Take Trump’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which he bitterly attacked even as he seemed to support nearly all the major elements of the legislation, especially its protections for those with preexisting conditions. Unlike the case with some other Republicans, the point of this opposition wasn’t anything the law actually did. Rather, Trump’s animus about “Obamacare” was personal: Destroying it wasn’t about changing health-care policy but about dismantling a hated opponent’s legacy. Even if Trump gets the electoral drubbing he deserves, the cleavages he has so successfully and destructively exploited will still endanger us. Covid-19 will still plague the land. No election can erase the fact that we have more cases and deaths than any other nation. Whether or not Trump is defeated, his influence can linger: Too much of the country is refusing to regularly wear masks because the hated “other tribe” insists that everyone should, making a bare face the 2020 equivalent of a “Make America Great Again” hat. Still, however, I remain a congenital optimist. One thing that gives me hope is the fact that so many of us — nearly 100 million, as of Monday — defied both the raging pandemic and widespread attempts at voter suppression to cast ballots before Election Day. We can’t begin to solve our problems unless we talk to one another, and elections are the venue for that conversation. We may be yelling and screaming across the divide, but it’s a beginning — and you have a part to play.
Current and former Trump administration officials are worried about what might happen on Nov. 4.
By Ron Suskind
Mr. Suskind is an investigative journalist who has written about the presidency and national affairs for more than three decades.
Oct. 30, 2020
Kathleen Kingsbury, the acting editorial page editor, wrote about the decision to publish this essay in this morning’s edition of the Opinion Today newsletter.
There will of course be an Election Day — and it could be one of tumult, banners colliding, incidents at the polls and attempted hacks galore. More likely than not, it will end without a winner named or at least generally accepted.
America will probably awaken on Nov. 4 into uncertainty. Whatever else happens, there is no doubt that President Trump is ready for it.
I’ve spent the last month interviewing some two dozen officials and aides, several of whom are still serving in the Trump administration. The central sources in this story are or were senior officials, mainly in jobs that require Senate confirmation. They have had regular access to the president and to briefings at the highest level. As a rule, they asked for anonymity because they were taking a significant professional and, in some cases, personal risk in speaking out in a way that Mr. Trump will see as disloyal, an offense for which he has promised to make offenders pay.
Several of them are in current posts in intelligence, law enforcement or national security and are focused on the concurrent activities of violent, far-right and white supremacy groups that have been encouraged by the president’s words and actions. They are worried that the president could use the power of the government — the one they all serve or served within — to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit from the White House. Like many other experts inside and outside the government, they are also concerned about foreign adversaries using the internet to sow chaos, exacerbate divisions and undermine our democratic process.
Many of those adversaries, they report, are already finding success in simply amplifying and directing the president’s words and tweets. And they’re thoroughly delighted, a former top intelligence official told me, “at how profoundly divided we’ve become. Donald Trump capitalized on that — he didn’t invent it — but someday soon we’re going to have figure out how to bring our country together, because right now we’re on a dangerous path, so very dangerous, and so vulnerable to bad actors.”
None of these officials know what will happen in the future any better than the rest of us do. It is their job to fret over worst-case scenarios, and they’re damn good at it. I can’t know all their motives for wanting to speak to me, but one thing many of them share is a desire to make clear that the alarm bells heard across the country are ringing loudly inside the administration too, where there are public servants looking to avert conflict, at all costs.
It is possible, of course, that this will be an Election Day much like all other Election Days. Even if it takes weeks or months before the result is known and fully certified, it could be a peaceful process, where all votes are reasonably counted, allowing those precious electors to be distributed based on a fair fight. The anxiety we’re feeling now could turn out to be a lot of fretting followed by nothing much, a political version of Y2K.
Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon U.S. forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.
“That guy you saw in the debate,” a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history — bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. “That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”
Still another senior government official, who spent years working in proximity to Mr. Trump, put it like this: “He has done nothing else that’s a constant, except for acting in his own interest.” And that’s how “he’s going to be thinking, every step of the way, come Nov. 3.”
One of the first things senior staff members learned about Mr. Trump was that he was all but un-briefable. He couldn’t seem to take in complex information about policy choices and consequences in the ways presidents usually do in Oval Office meetings.
What they saw instead was the guy from the first debate. He’d switch subjects, go on crazy tangents, abuse and humiliate people, cut them off midsentence. Officials I interviewed described this scenario again and again.
In the middle of a briefing, Mr. Trump would turn away and grab the phone. Sometimes the call would go to Fox television hosts like Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs; sometimes the officials wouldn’t even know who was on the other end. But whoever it was would instantly become the key voice in the debate.
In one meeting about the border wall, Mr. Trump called a person “who built a flagpole at one of his golf courses,” said an official in attendance that day. Mr. Trump explained that because this person “got in a big fight about the size of the flagpole” and because it was “really big,” “the president thought, of course, they would understand how to build a wall.”
“Obviously,” this official said, “it is not the same.”
“We used to joke that is was like a phone-a-friend thing, a lifeline thing” from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” this person said. Soon, senior officials — frustrated that they couldn’t seem to get a word in during briefings — adopted their own version of this technique. They’d ask an array of people — some Trump friends, some members of Congress, assorted notables — to call Mr. Trump and talk to him about key issues. The callers just couldn’t let on that a senior official had put them up to it. Two of these senior officials compared the technique to the manipulations of “The Truman Show,” in which the main character, played by Jim Carrey, does not know that his entire life is being orchestrated by a TV producer.
In March 2018, Mr. Trump took a trip on Air Force One to Charlotte, N.C., for the funeral of the Rev. Billy Graham.
History may note that the most important thing that happened that day had little to do with the religious leader and his large life, save a single thread of his legacy. That would be his grandson, Edward Graham, an Army Ranger “right out of central casting,” as Mr. Trump liked to say, who’d served eight tours in Afghanistan and Iraq over 16 years. In full uniform he met Mr. Trump to escort him, and the two talked about the country’s grueling conflicts overseas.
For Mr. Trump, the meeting was a face-to-face lifeline call. When he returned to Washington, he couldn’t stop talking about troop withdrawals, starting with Afghanistan. During his campaign, he had frequently mentioned his desire to bring home troops from these “endless wars.” As president, his generals — led by the polished, scholarly, even-keeled Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — explained the importance of U.S. troops in stabilizing whole regions of the world, and the value of that stability. Suddenly, after talking to Edward Graham, Mr. Trump didn’t want to hear it.
“In a normal, sane environment,” said a senior Pentagon official, “were it Obama or Bush, or whatever, they’d meet Billy Graham’s grandson and they’d be like ‘Oh that’s interesting,’ and take it to heart, but then they’d go and they’d at least try to validate it with the policymakers, or their military experts. But no, with him, it’s like improv. So, he gets this stray electron and he goes, ‘OK, this is the ground truth.’ ”
Mr. Graham, now working in his family’s ministry, said, “Any conversations that I have had with the president are private.” And, “additionally, when I had those conversations with the president, I was in the Army and I was speaking with our commander in chief.”
Several weeks later, at a speech in Ohio, Mr. Trump said, “we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS” in Syria and the U.S. troops there would be coming home “very soon.”
Once they heard this, shock started to run through Mr. Mattis and his old friend, John Kelly, who’d commanded Marine forces but was then the chief of staff to the president. Both men understood that the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria were, soldier for soldier, probably the most valuable fighting force on the planet. They not only fought alongside the Kurds in routing ISIS, which was battered yet still a threat. These few troops helped hold the region intact, supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces, also filled with Kurds, which in turn checked the expansion of Syria’s murderous leader, Bashar al-Assad, and also kept Russia, Mr. Assad’s patron, in check. The Kurds had suffered tremendously in these conflicts, much more than the Americans had.
Word spread, and soon much of Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department and Mr. Kelly were doing various versions of “The Truman Show,” trying to get people on the phone that Mr. Trump trusted.
This went on for much of the year — as various voices, both inside and outside of government, worked to try to excise this idea of pulling troops out of Syria from the man.
On Dec. 19, 2018, top brass at the Pentagon received notification via Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed, along with more than 80 million of his followers: The United States would be pulling troops out of Syria. It wasn’t clear what, precisely, Mr. Trump was thinking, beyond the tweet: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency.”
ISIS was shrunken, but not yet fully defeated. And the move meant a radical reduction in American influence in Syria, an increase in the power of Russia and Iran to determine events there and quite possibly a land grab by the Turkish government, sworn enemy of the Kurds. Senior leadership of the U.S. government went into a panic. Capitol Hill, too. John Bolton, who was still the national security adviser then, and Virginia Boney, then the legislative affairs director of the National Security Council, hit the phones, calling more than a dozen senators from both parties. Mr. Bolton started each call, saying, in an apologetic tone, “This is the mind of the president, he wants to bring home our troops,” and then switched to frank talk about what might be done. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was beside himself. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who served during the Iraq War, was dumbstruck. So was Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Is there any way we can reverse this?” he pleaded. “What can we do?”
That’s what Mr. Mattis wondered. He’d worked nearly two years developing techniques to try to manage Mr. Trump, from colorful PowerPoint slides to several kinds of flattery. This was his moment. The next day, he suited up, put on his cherished, navy blue NATO tie, with the four-pointed symbol of the alliance from which Mr. Trump had threatened to withdraw, and entered the Oval Office. He tried every technique — his entire arsenal, every tack, every argument. The president was unmoved. Mr. Mattis paused, and then pulled from his breast pocket an envelope with his resignation letter.
Down the hall, the very next day, Mr. Kelly was almost done cleaning out his office. He, too, had had enough. He and Mr. Trump had been at each other every day for months. Later, he told The Washington Examiner, “I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that.” But, in fact, that’s exactly what Mr. Trump wanted. Seventeen months as chief of staff, stopping Mr. Trump from umpteen crazy moves, from calling in the Marines to shoot migrants crossing the Rio Grande — “It’s illegal, sir, and the kids, they’re good kids, they just won’t do it” — to invading Venezuela. The list was long. Were they just trial balloons? Sure, some were. And, if someone wasn’t there to challenge Mr. Trump, might they have risen to action? Surely.
“I think the biggest shock he had — ’cause his assumption was the generals, ‘my generals,’ as he used to say and it used to make us cringe — was this issue of, I think, he just assumed that generals would be completely loyal to the kaiser,” a former senior official told me. “And when we weren’t, that was a huge shock to him, because he thought if anyone was going to be loyal, it would be the generals. And the first people he realized were not loyal to him were the generals.”
This shock, and his first two-plus years of struggle with seasoned, expert advisers, led to an insight for Mr. Trump. It all came back to loyalty. He needed to get rid of any advisers or senior officials who vowed loyalty to the Constitution over personal loyalty to him. Which is pretty much what he proceeded to do.
In February 2019, William Barr arrived as attorney general, having auditioned for the job with a 19-page memo arguing in various and creative ways that the president’s powers should be exercised nearly without limits and his actions stand virtually beyond review. He stood ready to brilliantly manage the receipt of the Mueller Report in March. Mr. Barr’s moves constituted what amounted to a clean kill, decapitating the sprawling nearly two-year investigation led by his old friend with a single blow.
That summer, two more heavyweight senior officials, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and his deputy, Sue Gordon, a beloved 32-year veteran of the C.I.A., both resigned. To replace Mr. Coats, Trump selected Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, a small-town mayor-turned-congressman with no meaningful experience in intelligence — who quickly withdrew from consideration after news reports questioned his qualifications; he lacked support among key Republican senators as well. Mr. Trump then picked a communications official in the administration of George W. Bush and ambassador to Germany under Mr. Trump, Richard Grenell. Mr. Grenell’s stint was temporary and in May Mr. Trump brought back his first choice, Mr. Ratcliffe, who is now director of national intelligence for Mr. Trump’s homestretch and postelection period.
In other words, by the summer of 2020, Mr. Trump was well along in completing the transition to a loyalty-tested senior team. When I asked the White House to respond to this idea, I heard back from Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary.
“President Trump serves the American people by keeping his promises and taking action where the typical politician would provide hollow words,” she said. “The president wants capable public servants in his administration who will enact his America First agenda and are faithful to the Constitution — these principles are not mutually exclusive. President Trump is delivering on his promise to make Washington accountable again to the citizens it’s meant to serve and will always fight for what is best for the American people.”
The reason having loyalists at both the Department of Justice and D.N.I. is so very important for the president is that it allows him, potentially, to coordinate two key agencies of the government — secret intelligence and prosecution — toward his own political ends. This is exactly what he was criticized for doing in the summer and fall of 2020, with Mr. Barr being accused of announcing politically motivated action and investigations — including to support the fiction of widespread voter fraud — and Mr. Ratcliffe, with collecting and releasing information that is targeted at Mr. Trump’s opponents.
The third leg of what would be an ideal triad for this sort of activity is the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, who drew Mr. Trump’s ire in September, when, in congressional hearings, he echoed the consensus of the intelligence community that the Russians intervened in the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf, that they were doing it again in this election cycle, that “racially motivated violent extremism” — coming mostly from right-wing white supremacists — was a persistent threat, and that widespread voter fraud was a nonissue.
The F.B.I. has been under siege since this past summer, according to a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The White House is using friendly members of Congress to try to get at certain information under the guise of quote-unquote, oversight, but really to get politically helpful information before the election,” the official said. “They want some sort of confirmation that we’ve opened an investigation,” for example, into Hunter Biden, “which, again, the F.B.I. doesn’t confirm or deny whether it’s opened investigations.”
This official said that Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, “sends letters constantly now, berating, asking for the sun, moon, stars, the entire Russia investigation, and then either going on the morning talk shows or calling the attorney general whenever he doesn’t get precisely what he wants.” The urgency, two F.B.I. officials said, ratcheted up after Mr. Trump was told three weeks ago that he wouldn’t get the “deliverables” he wanted before the election of incriminating evidence about those who investigated and prosecuted his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Senator Johnson, specifically disputed the idea that Mr. Johnson had made requests to receive material quickly for TV appearances.
Furthermore, he said, “Senator Johnson has been frustrated by the failure of the F.B.I. and many other federal agencies to timely produce documents since taking over as chairman of the Senate’s chief oversight body in 2015. In that time, the F.B.I. habitually rebuffed oversight requests, which prompted Senator Johnson to issue F.B.I. a subpoena in August 2020. Senator Johnson has been putting pressure on the F.B.I. — and other federal agencies — because that’s the only way to get the records the committee is entitled to receive.”
Rumors swirled a week before the election that Mr. Trump was preparing to fire Mr. Wray, as well as, perhaps, the director of the C.I.A., Gina Haspel — who had also drawn Mr. Trump’s ire, according to both former and current senior intelligence officials. The speculation is that they could both be fired immediately after the election, when Mr. Trump will want to show the cost paid for insufficient loyalty and to demonstrate that he remains in charge.
The senior official at the F.B.I., however, said that “firing the director won’t accomplish the goal.” There are “37,000 other people he would have to fire. It won’t work.”
That doesn’t mean that the president won’t try. Nov. 4 will be a day, said one of the former senior intelligence officials, “when he’ll want to match word with deed.” Key officials in several parts of the government told me how they thought the progression from the 3rd to the 4th might go down.
They are loath to give up too many precise details, but it’s not hard to speculate from what we already know. Disruption would most likely begin on Election Day morning somewhere on the East Coast, where polls open first. Miami and Philadelphia (already convulsed this week after another police shooting), in big swing states, would be likely locations. It could be anything, maybe violent, maybe not, started by anyone, or something planned and executed by any number of organizations, almost all of them on the right fringe, many adoring of Mr. Trump. The options are vast and test the imagination. Activists could stage protests at a few of the more crowded polling places and draw those in long lines into conflict.
A group could just directly attack a polling place, injuring poll workers of both parties, and creating a powerful visual — an American polling place in flames, like the ballot box in Massachusetts that was burned earlier this week — that would immediately circle the globe. Some enthusiasts may simply enter the area around a polling location to root out voter fraud — as the president has directed his supporters to do — taking advantage of a 2018 court ruling that allows the Republican National Committee to pursue “ballot security” operations without court approval.
Would that mean that Mr. Trump caused any such planned activities or improvisations? No, not directly. He’s in an ongoing conversation — one to many, in a twisted e pluribus unum — with a vast population, which is in turn in conversations — many to many — among themselves. People are receiving messages, interpreting them and deciding to act, or not. If, say, the Proud Boys attack a polling location, is it because they were spurred on by Mr. Trump’s “stand back and stand by” instructions? Is Mr. Trump telling his most fervent supporters specifically what to do? No. But security officials are terrified by the dynamics of this volatile conversation. It can move in so many directions and very quickly become dangerous, as we have already seen several times this year.
The local police are already on-guard in those cities and others around the country for all sorts of possible incidents at polling places, including the possibility of gunfire. If something goes wrong, the media will pick this up in early morning reports and it will spread quickly, increasing tension at polling places across the country, where the setup is ripe for conflict.
Conservative media could then say the election was being stolen, summoning others to activate, maybe violently. This is the place where cybersecurity experts are on the lookout for foreign actors to amplify polling location incidents many times over, with bots and algorithms and stories written overseas that slip into the U.S. digital diet. News of even a few incidents could summon a violent segment of Mr. Trump’s supporters into action, giving foreign actors even more to amplify and distribute, spreading what is, after all, news of mayhem to the wider concentric circles of Mr. Trump’s loyalists. Groups from the left may engage as well, most likely as a counterpoint to those on the right. Those groups are less structured, more like an “ideology or movement,” as Mr. Wray described them in his September testimony. But, as a senior official told me, the numbers on the left are vast.
Violence and conflict throughout that day at the polls would surely affect turnout, allowing Mr. Trump to claim that the in-person vote had been corrupted, if that suits his purposes. There’s no do-over for Election Day.
Under the 12th Amendment, which Mr. Trump has alluded to on several occasions, the inability to determine a clear winner in the presidential election brings the final decision to the House of Representatives. The current composition of the House, in which Republicans control more state delegations even though Democrats are in the majority, favors Trump. But the state count could flip to the Democrats with this election.
There are many scenarios that might unfold from here, nearly all of them entailing weeks or even months of conflict, and giving an advantage to the person who already runs the U.S. government.
There will likely be some reckoning of the in-person vote drawn from vote tallies and exit polls. If Joe Biden is way ahead in these projections, and they are accepted as sound, Mr. Trump may find himself having to claim fraud or suppression that amounts to too large a share of votes to seem reasonable. Inside the Biden campaign they are calling this “too big to rig.”
Races tend to tighten at the end, but the question is not so much the difference between the candidates’ vote totals, or projections of them, as it is what Mr. Trump can get his supporters to believe. Mr. Trump might fairly state, at this point, that he can get a significant slice of his base to believe anything.
But he could use all the help that he can summon to invalidate the in-person vote.
Senior intelligence officials are worried that a foreign power could finally manage a breach of the American voting architecture — or leave enough of a digital trail to be perceived to have breached it. There were enormous efforts to do so, largely but not exclusively by the Russians, in 2016, when election systems in every state were targeted. There is also concern that malware attacks could cripple state governments and their electronic voter registration data, something that could make swaths of voters unable to vote. A senior official told me that provisional ballots can then be passed out and “we keep all the receipts,” meaning that these votes would have a paper ballot trail that can be laboriously counted and rechecked. But a breach or an appearance of a breach, in any state’s machinery, would, in a chaotic flow of events, be a well-timed gift to Mr. Trump.
The lie easily outruns truth — and the best “disinformation,” goes a longtime C.I.A. rule, “is actually truthful.” It all blends together. “Then the president then substantiates it, gives it credence, gives it authority from the highest office,” says the senior government official. “Then his acolytes mass-blast it out. Then it becomes the narrative, and fact, and no rational, reasonable explanation to the contrary will move” his supporters “an inch.”
No matter how the votes split, there’s an expectation among officials that Mr. Trump will claim some kind of victory on Nov. 4, even if it’s a victory he claims was hijacked by fraud — just as he falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton’s three million-vote lead in the popular vote was the result of millions of votes from unauthorized immigrants. This could come in conjunction with statements, supported by carefully chosen “facts,” that the election was indeed “rigged,” as he’s long been warning.
If the streets then fill with outraged people, he can easily summon, or prompt, or encourage troublemakers among his loyalists to turn a peaceful crowd into a sea of mayhem. They might improvise on their own in sparking violence, presuming it pleases their leader.
If the crowds are sufficiently large and volatile, he can claim to be justified in responding with federal powers to bring order. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, have both said they are opposed to deploying armed forces on American soil.
A senior Pentagon official, though, laid out a back-door plan that he was worried about. It won’t start, he thinks, with a sweeping move to federalize the National Guard, which is within the President’s Article 2 powers; it’d be more of a state by state process. The head of the National Guard of some state “starts feeling uncomfortable with something and then calls up the Pentagon.”
The F.B.I., meanwhile, is bracing for huge challenges. “We are all-hands-on-deck for the foreseeable future,” the F.B.I. official I mentioned earlier told me. “We’ve been talking to our state and local counterparts and gearing up for the expectation that it’s going to be a significant law-enforcement challenge for probably weeks or months,” this official said. “It feels pretty terrifying.”
In the final few weeks of the campaign, and during Mr. Trump’s illness, he’s done two things that seem contradictory: seeking votes from anyone who might still be swayed and consolidating and activating his army of most ardent followers. They are loyal to him as a person, several officials pointed out, not as president. That army Trump can direct in the difficult days ahead and take with him, wherever he goes. He may activate it. He may bargain with it, depending on how the electoral chips fall. It’s his insurance policy.
The senior government official who discussed Mr. Trump’s amplifying of messages spoke with great clarity about these codes of loyalty. The official was raised in, and regularly visits, what is now a Trump stronghold.
“They’re the reason he took off the damned mask when he got to the White House” from Walter Reed, the official said. “Those people eat that up, where any reasonable, rational person would be horrified. You are still actively shedding a deadly virus. You are lucky enough to have the best and brightest doctors, trial drugs, whatever. You get flown back to the White House, and you do a photo-op with a military salute to no one. You ask it to be refilmed, and you take off your mask, which, in my mind, has become a signal to his core base of supporters that are willing to put themselves at risk and danger to show loyalty to him.”
But across the government, another official — a senior intelligence official in a different department — argues that citizens may yet manage to rise to the challenge of this difficult election, in a time of division.
“The last line of defense in elections is the American voter,” he told me. “This is the most vulnerable phase,” now and the days immediately after Election Day, “where we’re so eager to have an outcome, that actors both foreign and domestic are going to exploit that interest, that thirst, that need for resolution to the drama.”
I asked him what he would say to American voters. “Look,” he said, softly, “just understand that you’re being manipulated. That’s politics, that’s foreign influence, they’re trying to manipulate you and drive you to a certain outcome.”
“Americans are, I think, hopefully, made of sterner stuff.”
Ron Suskind is an investigative journalist who has covered the presidency and national affairs for more than three decades. He is the author of six books including, most recently, “Life, Animated.”
Deadhead1155: It has been a long 4+ years. If all goes well after January 20,2021 i hope to be climbing out of the trenches and get back to blogging my own observations. Thank you for indulging me and borrowing from others. In the meantime, please read below. .
Oct. 29, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET
It’s always assumed that those of us who felt certain of Hillary Clinton’s victory in 2016 were putting too much trust in polls.
I was putting too much trust in Americans.
I’d seen us err. I’d watched us stray. Still I didn’t think that enough of us would indulge a would-be leader as proudly hateful, patently fraudulent and flamboyantly dishonest as Donald Trump.
We had episodes of ugliness, but this? No way. We were better than Trump.
Except, it turned out, we weren’t.
Never mind that the Russians gave him a boost. Or that he lost the popular vote. Some 46 percent of the Americans who cast ballots for president in 2016 picked him, and as he moved into the White House and proceeded to soil it, most of those Americans stood by him solidly enough that Republicans in Congress didn’t dare to cross him and in fact went to great, conscience-immolating lengths to prop him up. These lawmakers weren’t swooning for a demagogue. They were reading the populace.ADVERTISEMENThttps://2e363d3e21e52a885fdca251cdcbb6f4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
And it was a populace I didn’t recognize, or at least didn’t want to.
What has Trump’s presidency taken from us? I’m reasonably sure that many Americans feel the same loss that I do, and I’m struggling to assign just one word to it.
Innocence? Optimism? Faith? Go to the place on the Venn diagram where those states of mind overlap. That’s the piece of me now missing when I look at this beloved country of mine.
Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.ADVERTISEMENThttps://2e363d3e21e52a885fdca251cdcbb6f4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.
Polls from mid-October showed that about 44 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance — and this was after he’d concealed aspects of his coronavirus infection from the public, shrugged off the larger meaning of it, established the White House as its own superspreader environment and cavalierly marched on.
I’m not forgetting pre-Trump American history. I’m not erasing hundreds of years of slavery, the internment of Japanese Americans, the many kinds of discrimination that have flourished in my own lifetime, all the elections in which we Americans made stupid choices and all the presidents who did “un-American” things. We’re a grossly imperfect country, our behavior at frequent odds with our ideals.ADVERTISEMENThttps://2e363d3e21e52a885fdca251cdcbb6f4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
But for every abomination, I could name a moment of grace. For many of our sins, stabs at atonement. We demonstrated a yearning to correct our mistakes and, I think, a tropism toward goodness. On balance we were open, generous. When I traveled abroad, people from other countries routinely complimented Americans for that. They experienced us as arrogant, but also as special.
Now they just pity us.
How much of this can we pin on Trump? Not as much as we try to. And oh, how we’ve tried. This obsession of the news media and his detractors with every last eccentricity and inanity isn’t just about keeping a complete record, I’ve come to realize. It’s also a deflection, an evasion: If he gets the whole of the stage, then Americans’ complicity and collaboration are shoved into the wings.
And the freakier we make him out to be, the less emblematic he is. The more he becomes a random, isolated event. We emphasized what a vanquishable opponent Hillary Clinton was because that diminished the significance of the vanquishing and the vanquisher. We spoke of a perfect storm of circumstances that led to his election as a way of disowning the weather.
We cheered on Robert Mueller’s investigation not just because it might hold Trump and his wretched accomplices to account but also because it might explain him away, proving that he reached the White House by cheating, not because he was what nearly half of the country decided that they wanted.
We tried to make him a one-and-done one-off. But deep into his presidency, when his execrable character had been fully exposed, his Fox News cheerleaders continued to draw huge audiences for their sycophantic panegyrics.
Trump himself continued to attract big crowds to his rallies, like the one in Greenville, N.C., in July 2019, when he pressed his attack on four Democratic congresswomen of color, including Representative Ilhan Omar, who immigrated from Somalia. Egged on by him, his audience chanted: “Send her back! Send her back!” He stopped speaking to give those words room, and he soaked them in.
Or what about the recent rally in Muskegon, Mich., where he freshly assailed the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, despite the fact that his obsessive denunciations of her had possibly been a factor in an alleged plot by 14 men to kidnap her? “Lock her up!” many of the attendees bellowed, to Trump’s obvious amusement.
Again, how has his approval rating not fallen to negative integers?
I’m not saying that support for him is spun entirely of malice or bias. Keen economic anxiety and profound political estrangement are why many voters turned to him, as my Times colleague Farah Stockman explained especially well in a recent editorial that was set in America’s disheartened heartland. “Even false hope,” she noted, “is a form of hope, perhaps the most ubiquitous kind.”
The headline on the article was “Why They Loved Him.” But why haven’t more of them stopped loving him? And how did so many Americans beyond that group fall so hard for him, thrilling to his recklessness, applauding his divisiveness, indulging his unscrupulousness? He tapped into more cynicism and nihilism than this land of boundless tomorrows was supposed to contain.
He tapped into more conspiratorialism, too. And I do mean “tapped.” Trump didn’t draw out anything that wasn’t already there, burbling beneath the surface.
He didn’t sire white supremacists. He didn’t script the dark fantasies of QAnon. He didn’t create all the Americans who rebelled against protective masks and mocked those who wore them, a selfish mind-set that helps explain our tragic lot. It just flourished under him.
And it will almost certainly survive him. The foul spirit of these past five years — I’m including his hateful campaign — has been both pervasive and strangely proud. That’s what makes it different. That’s what makes it so chilling.
I could be overreacting. Maybe, just ahead, there will be moments of grace, enough of them to redeem us. Maybe I’ll look up on or after Nov. 3 and see that Biden has won North Carolina, has won Michigan, has won every closely contested state and the presidency in a landslide. Maybe I’ll have to eat my words.
Please, my fellow Americans, feed me my words. I’d relish that meal.
Frank Bruni has been with The Times since 1995 and held a variety of jobs — including White House reporter, Rome bureau chief and chief restaurant critic — before becoming a columnist in 2011. He is the author of three best-selling books. @FrankBruni • Facebook
The Party of Lincoln had a good run. Then came Mr. Trump.
Deadhead1155: As an amateur student of U.S. history I have spent much time reading about the birth of our Nation and the evolution of our experiment in Democracy. For some years now I have been saying that the G.O.P. needs to go the way of the Whig Party. The G.OP. really made its inroads in the mid 1850’s. President Lincoln was their first President and Donald Trump should be their last. The time has come to end their run and another new Party needs to emerge and the G.O.P. needs to fade away.
Please read on and as usual I welcome comments and discussion and sharing. Thank you.
By The Editorial Board NY Times The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.
Oct. 24, 2020
Of all the things President Trump has destroyed, the Republican Party is among the most dismaying.
“Destroyed” is perhaps too simplistic, though. It would be more precise to say that Mr. Trump accelerated his party’s demise, exposing the rot that has been eating at its core for decades and leaving it a hollowed-out shell devoid of ideas, values or integrity, committed solely to preserving its own power even at the expense of democratic norms, institutions and ideals.
Tomato, tomahto. However you characterize it, the Republican Party’s dissolution under Mr. Trump is bad for American democracy.
A healthy political system needs robust, competing parties to give citizens a choice of ideological, governing and policy visions. More specifically, center-right parties have long been crucial to the health of modern liberal democracies, according to the Harvard political scientist Daniel Ziblatt’s study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe. Among other benefits, a strong center right can co-opt more palatable aspects of the far right, isolating and draining energy from the more radical elements that threaten to destabilize the system.
Today’s G.O.P. does not come close to serving this function. It has instead allowed itself to be co-opted and radicalized by Trumpism. Its ideology has been reduced to a slurry of paranoia, white grievance and authoritarian populism. Its governing vision is reactionary, a cross between obstructionism and owning the libs. Its policy agenda, as defined by the party platform, is whatever President Trump wants — which might not be so pathetic if Mr. Trump’s interests went beyond “Build a wall!”
“There is no philosophical underpinning for the Republican Party anymore,” the veteran strategist Reed Galen recently lamented to this board. A co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a political action committee run by current and former Republicans dedicated to defeating Mr. Trump and his enablers, Mr. Galen characterized the party as a self-serving, power-hungry gang.
With his dark gospel, the president has enthralled the Republican base, rendering other party leaders too afraid to stand up to him. But to stand with Mr. Trump requires a constant betrayal of one’s own integrity and values. This goes beyond the usual policy flip-flops — what happened to fiscal hawks anyway? — and political hypocrisy, though there have been plenty of both. Witness the scramble to fill a Supreme Court seat just weeks before Election Day by many of the same Senate Republicans who denied President Barack Obama his high court pick in 2016, claiming it would be wrong to fill a vacancy eight months out from that election.
Mr. Trump demands that his interests be placed above those of the nation. His presidency has been an extended exercise in defining deviancy down — and dragging the rest of his party down with him.
Having long preached “character” and “family values,” Republicans have given a pass to Mr. Trump’s personal degeneracy. The affairs, the hush money, the multiple accusations of assault and harassment, the gross boasts of grabbing unsuspecting women — none of it matters. White evangelicals remain especially faithful adherents, in large part because Mr. Trump has appointed around 200 judges to the federal bench.
For all their talk about revering the Constitution, Republicans have stood by, slack-jawed, in the face of the president’s assault on checks and balances. Mr. Trump has spurned the concept of congressional oversight of his office. After losing a budget fight and shutting down the government in 2018-19, he declared a phony national emergency at the southern border so he could siphon money from the Pentagon for his border wall. He put a hold on nearly $400 million in Senate-approved aid to Ukraine — a move that played a central role in his impeachment.
So much for Republicans’ Obama-era nattering about “executive overreach.”
Despite fetishizing “law and order,” Republicans have shrugged as Mr. Trump has maligned and politicized federal law enforcement, occasionally lending a hand. Impeachment offered the most searing example. Parroting the White House line that the entire process was illegitimate, the president’s enablers made clear they had his back no matter what. As Pete Wehner, who served as a speechwriter to the three previous Republican presidents, observed in The Atlantic: “Republicans, from beginning to end, sought not to ensure that justice be done or truth be revealed. Instead, they sought to ensure that Trump not be removed from office under any circumstances, defending him at all costs.”
The debasement goes beyond passive indulgence. Congressional bootlickers, channeling Mr. Trump’s rantings about the Deep State, have used their power to target those who dared to investigate him. Committee chairmen like Representative Devin Nunes and Senator Ron Johnson have conducted hearings aimed at smearing Mr. Trump’s political opponents and delegitimizing the special counsel’s Russia inquiry.
As head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Johnson pushed a corruption investigation of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter that he bragged would expose the former vice president’s “unfitness for office.” Instead, he wasted taxpayer money producing an 87-page rehash of unsubstantiated claims reeking of a Russian disinformation campaign. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, another Republican on the committee, criticized the inquiry as “a political exercise,” noting, “It’s not the legitimate role of government or Congress, or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.”
Undeterred, last Sunday Mr. Johnson popped up on Fox News, engaging with the host over baseless rumors that the F.B.I. was investigating child pornography on a computer that allegedly had belonged to Hunter Biden. These vile claims are being peddled online by right-wing conspiracymongers, including QAnon.
Not that congressional toadies are the only offenders. A parade of administration officials — some of whom were well respected before their Trumpian tour — have stood by, or pitched in, as the president has denigrated the F.B.I., federal prosecutors, intelligence agencies and the courts. They have failed to prioritize election security because the topic makes Mr. Trump insecure about his win in 2016. They have pushed the limits of the law and human decency to advance Mr. Trump’s draconian immigration agenda.
Most horrifically, Republican leaders have stood by as the president has lied to the public about a pandemic that has already killed more than 220,000 Americans. They have watched him politicize masks, testing, the distribution of emergency equipment and pretty much everything else. Some echo his incendiary talk, fueling violence in their own communities. In the campaign’s closing weeks, as case numbers and hospitalizations climb and health officials warn of a rough winter, Mr. Trump is stepping up the attacks on his scientific advisers, deriding them as “idiots” and declaring Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert in infectious diseases, a “disaster.” Only a smattering of Republican officials has managed even a tepid defense of Dr. Fauci. Whether out of fear, fealty or willful ignorance, these so-called leaders are complicit in this national tragedy.
As Republican lawmakers grow increasingly panicked that Mr. Trump will lose re-election — possibly damaging their fortunes as well — some are scrambling to salvage their reputations by pretending they haven’t spent the past four years letting him run amok. In an Oct. 14call with constituents, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave a blistering assessment of the president’s failures and “deficient” values, from his misogyny to his calamitous handling of the pandemic to “the way he kisses dictators’ butts.” Mr. Sasse was less clear about why, the occasional targeted criticism notwithstanding, he has enabled these deficiencies for so long.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, locked in his own tight re-election race, recently told the local media that he, too, has disagreed with Mr. Trump on numerous issues, including deficit spending, trade policy and his raiding of the defense budget. Mr. Cornyn said he opted to keep his opposition private rather than get into a public tiff with Mr. Trump “because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.”
Profiles in courage these are not.
Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on his party would fill a book. It has, in fact, filledseveral, as well as a slew of articles, social media posts and op-eds, written by conservatives both heartbroken and incensed over what has become of their party.
But many of these disillusioned Republicans also acknowledge that their team has been descending into white grievance, revanchism and know-nothing populism for decades. Mr. Trump just greased the slide. “He is the logical conclusion of what the Republican Party has become in the last 50 or so years,” the longtime party strategist Stuart Stevens asserts in his new book, “It Was All a Lie.”
The scars of Mr. Trump’s presidency will linger long after he leaves office. Some Republicans believe that, if those scars run only four years deep, rather than eight, their party can be nursed back to health. Others question whether there is anything left worth saving. Mr. Stevens’s prescription: “Burn it to the ground, and start over.”
Have you noticed that right now everything is about Amy Coney Barrett, the new Supreme Court nominee?
OK, you were thinking everything was about the coronavirus. But where did a lot of our alleged national leaders seem to get infected? The party Donald Trump gave to celebrate her nomination. Really, you might have been safer going to a midnight fraternity party in somebody’s basement.
When Trump decided he wanted to drop negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill, he said the Senate needed to devote all its attention to Judge Barrett.
Now the economy could go to hell in a handbasket if Congress fails to act and there’s no more aid to the states, cities or faltering industries. If so, do we chalk it up to Amy? Not saying, obviously, that she planned to create mass unemployment. But there’s just something about the nomination that makes everything wacky. Or I guess the word should be wackier, given that we’re starting out with a president who claims it was his duty to get Covid-19. (“I stood out front and I led.”)ADVERTISEMENThttps://02c38f1135e02be5c7b88d998beea887.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Unless you have been living in a fetal position under your bed — which is perfectly understandable, really — you’ve heard that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are intent on getting Barrett ensconced in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat as fast as possible. McConnell is undoubtedly worried about Joe Biden becoming president-elect. Trump does not live in the real world, but he still wants a friendly new face on the court after the election returns come in.
So, the Judiciary Committee, led by the omnipresent Lindsey Graham, is going to hold hearings on the nomination. Then the Republicans are going to race, race, race through the process so the Senate can vote to approve the nomination at least a week before the election.
That’s way too fast. Barrett has had a fine career, but she’s only served as a judge for three years. (Ginsburg had put in 13.) There’s a lot about her positions that the country would want to hear discussed. At length. She espouses anti-abortion views that are much more conservative than those of most other Americans. It seems that she’d be unenthusiastic about government action on things like global warming. She apparently was closely connected to a conservative Christian group called People of Praise that has a history of stressing a husband’s role as head of the household.
McConnell says questions about Barrett’s religious background “are a disgrace,” and it is quite true that senators would have to be very careful on that line of inquiry. Which is why it’s so important to have those serious, unhurried hearings.ADVERTISEMENThttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
And hey, have you noticed that Republican senators are starting to come down with the coronavirus? Two Judiciary Committee members, Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, are sick and now presumably infectious. (Earlier, Lee was at Trump’s Judge Amy party, where he seemed to be hugging about half the attendees.) So Mitch wants to let folks do their committee work from home if they prefer, in the basic Zoomish method we have all come to know and hate.
“A virtual hearing is virtually no hearing at all,” protested Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Well, yeah. And this is possibly the most important vote some of these senators will take in their entire term of office — one that could shift the court’s center of gravity far to the right for decades.
Sooner or later — well, sooner since these guys have less than four weeks until Election Day — the Senate will have to actually get together in person and vote. McConnell will need almost all of his Republicans to show up, no matter what their viral condition.
The idea of bringing in an ailing lawmaker for a big vote is not unheard-of. In 1918, when Congress was finally ready to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, one House member who had been in the hospital for six months managed to stagger in. Another refused to have his newly broken arm and shoulder set for fear of missing the vote. Another man had himself carried in on a stretcher.ADVERTISEMENThttps://02c38f1135e02be5c7b88d998beea887.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
In 1964, Senator Clair Engle of California wheeled into the Capitol so he could vote for the civil rights bill. The poor man had undergone two brain operations and was too ill to speak, but he managed to point to his eye, signaling “aye” for one of the most important pieces of legislation in modern American history.
What do you think the chances are an Amy Coney Barrett vote will be less inspiring? For one thing, these guys are not being wheeled in from an appendectomy. They’re infectious.
Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the ailing, says he’ll “go in a moon suit if necessary.” I guess if nothing else, it’d be a chance for Trump to imagine his space program was a success.
Think about this, people. The U.S. Senate is going to conduct business in the middle of a pandemic that is already sweeping through the Capitol. Republicans are going to do it because they feel compelled to ram through the Supreme Court nomination of a woman whose views do not reflect most of American society’s, just days before a presidential election in which the nation can make it very clear what kind of president and Senate it prefers.
Do you think it’s possible that certain Republicans don’t think that’s going to go their way?
Last Updated Sept. 30, 2020, 5:45 a.m. ET4 hours ago4 hours ago
President Trump demonstrated a willingness to lie, exaggerate and mislead during the first presidential debate, repeatedly interrupting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with attacks based on thin evidence. Mr. Biden appeared exasperated through much of the night but stood his ground, calling the president a liar and a racist and at one point saying, “Shut up, man.”
Mr. Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, instead blaming “the left wing” for violence in American cities even though — as Mr. Biden pointed out — his own F.B.I. director had said that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, has made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats.
The president insisted that he paid “millions of dollars” in federal income taxes during 2016 and 2017. In fact, tax documents obtained by The New York Times show that in both years, Mr. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes. Mr. Biden repeatedly prodded the president to release his tax returns for those years. In response, Mr. Trump said “you’ll see it as soon as it’s finished, you’ll see it” — a promise he has repeatedly made and broken since becoming a candidate.
Several times, Mr. Trump focused his attacks on Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, mixing partial truths with misleading statements and falsehoods in a way that appeared designed to rattle his opponent. His claim that “The mayor of Moscow’s wife gave your son $3.5 million” was misleading. He claimed that Hunter Biden “takes out billions” from business deals in China, offering no evidence despite denials from Mr. Biden and his lawyer that he was paid for his role on the board of the company at issue.
During clashes over the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trump claimed that “young children aren’t” much affected by Covid-19, a statement proven false by the many children who have been infected or died from the disease. He exaggerated Mr. Biden’s plan to confront the virus, claiming that “he’ll close down the whole country.” The former vice president has said he would listen to scientists.
Mr. Biden was more truthful, but he did exaggerate and mislead in some of his answers. He said that “we left him a booming economy and he caused the recession.” In fact, the economy was not booming in the final year of Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, and Mr. Trump did not “cause” the pandemic recession. The former vice president — who is known for gaffes — also got some facts wrong. He said that “we have a higher deficit with China now than we did before,” even though the trade deficit with China has fallen sharply.
The president was challenging a statement by Mr. Biden. A 2017 report from the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that between 61 million and 133 million Americans under the age of 65 have pre-existing conditions.
The Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus bill included over $50 billion in spending to promote renewable energy, such as wind and solar installations, the largest single investment in renewable energy in the nation’s history. Although the spending was plagued with some failures, including the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar company that Mr. Biden personally celebrated when it received stimulus funding, overall the stimulus is still credited with boosting the growth and driving down the cost of wind and solar power.
It is accurate that in some particularly windy and sunny parts of the country, wind and solar electricity are now as cheap or cheaper than coal or gas, but fossil-fueled electricity is still cheaper in portions of the country that do not have wind and solar facilities.
Only nine states are automatically sending ballots to all registered voters, which is what Mr. Trump refers to as “unsolicited.” Five of them — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Hawaii — have traditionally allowed voting by mail, and four, along with the District of Columbia, adopted the process in response to the coronavirus pandemic: California, New Jersey, Vermont and Nevada.
Of those states, only Nevada is considered a battleground.
The issues Mr. Trump cited were from states that have absentee ballots, or what the president refers to as a “solicited ballot” and is his preferred method of voting. Only his later mention of issues in New Jersey referred to a state that was sending ballots automatically to all registered voters.READ MORE
In a speech before U.S. troops in the United Arab Emirates in March 2016, Mr. Biden jokingly — not disparagingly — made the “stupid bastards” comment. Mr. Biden spoke about his visits to war zones and told the soldiers assembled that Americans “don’t fully understand the incredible sacrifices you make for our country,” before trying for an applause line that did not quite land.
“I have incredibly good judgment. One, I married Jill. And two, I appointed Johnson to the academy,” he said, referring to a female lieutenant from Delaware who had introduced him. Upon receiving a tepid reaction, he said, to some laughs, “Clap for that, you stupid bastards. Come on, man. Man, you are a dull bunch. Must be slow here, man. I don’t know.”
Mr. Trump responded to the moderator’s question about why he rolled back the Clean Power Plan, a set of Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to curb planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, by saying they were sending energy prices skyward. In fact, most of the Clean Power Plan was never implemented: it was temporarily halted by a 2016 Supreme Court order and never reinstated before the Trump administration effectively rolled it back last year.
In New Jersey, four men, including a sitting city councilman, were charged this year with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots in local elections in Paterson. The state attorney general accused them of attempting to collect hundreds of ballots and dropping them off in mailboxes; state law limits ballot collection to three per person. The episode quickly ricocheted around right-wing news sites with blaring headlines claiming it “signals national trouble,” though it was an isolated case in a local election.
The local board of elections did reject 3,200 ballots, or 19 percent of those cast in that local election, but not just for claims or suspicion of fraud. Ballots can be disqualified for mismatched signatures or for other user errors.
And Mr. Trump’s reference to irregularities in New York were exaggerated. Nearly 100,000 voters were sent defective ballots, apparently because of a printing error, elections officials acknowledged this week, but they said that new ballots would be mailed out.
The episode also seemed to raise the possibility that a voter’s ballot could be credited to someone else. In fact, security measures make that sort of mistake extremely unlikely. Every voter must sign the outside of the envelope they use to mail in their ballot, and election officials compare that signature with signatures in city files of the person whose name is printed on the envelope. Mismatches are set aside and the voter is given a chance to correct the mistake.READ MORE
Supporters of Mr. Trump were told they were not allowed inside newly-opened satellite election offices on Tuesday because they were not legally allowed to be inside. Philadelphia opened seven satellite election offices on Tuesday for early voting where voters can request, fill out and submit a ballot; they did not open up polling locations.
Philadelphia election law does not allow for poll watchers to come into satellite election offices, only polling locations. The Trump campaign also has no poll watchers registered in Philadelphia at the moment, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
This is an apparent reference to a discovery last week by law enforcement officials of three trays of mail lying in a ditch alongside a highway in Greenville, Wisc. The mail — which appeared to have been headed to the post office — included “several” absentee ballots, according to Lt. Ryan Carpenter of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department turned the mail over to inspectors from the United States Postal Service, who are investigating.
Following the discovery, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, cited these ballots, as well as several ballots found in a garbage can in Pennsylvania that Mr. Trump has also emphasized as part of his false narrative on dangers of mail-in voting, as evidence that it “a system that’s subject to fraud.”
Mr. Trump’s response to Mr. Wallace’s question, “Do you believe that human pollution, gas and greenhouse gases, contribute to global warming?” was at odds with the scientific conclusions of the most recent United States National Climate Assessment reports, which are published by 13 federal scientific agencies and which stand to date as the most comprehensive and authoritative scientific assessment of the causes and impacts of climate change in the United States.
While forest management is believed to play some role in wildfires, the 2018 National Climate Assessment drew direct links between climate change and worsening wildfires in the west. And it concluded that if greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels continue to increase at current rates, the frequency of severe fires in the west could triple.READ MORE
Sheriff Mike Reese of Multnomah County, Ore., where Portland is located, said he does not support Mr. Trump. “In tonight’s presidential debate the President said the ‘Portland Sheriff’ supports him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him,” Mr. Reeese tweeted.
Mr. Trump may have been referring to comments made by one police officer about the protests last night in Portland: “if people liked our Trump government a lot more, we probably wouldn’t have this issue in the first place.”
Though Mr. Trump’s homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, has not made this assertion, other intelligence and election security officials have said that mail-in voting for the November presidential election is safe from foreign intervention. They have emphasized that standard security measures and the decentralized nature of the United States’ election system make it extremely difficult for a foreign power to penetrate and change the results.
Officials also said that there is no intelligence indicating that any nation-state is making a coordinated attempt to undermine absentee voting or create fake mail-in ballots in a nationwide election, though there are local instances of fraud.
The Homeland Security Department did, however, has issued warnings that Russia and other countries may seek to amplify disinformation about mail-in voting.READ MORE
The statement came as the president was being pushed to forthrightly condemn white supremacists, and in an important moment in the debate, Mr. Trump did not condemn violent white racism. His own F.B.I. director said this month that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, has made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said days later that “when white supremacists act as terrorists, more people per incident are killed.”
The Homeland Security Department also singled out the white extremist threat as a primary threat in a domestic terrorism assessment published last year. That framework also flagged anti-government groups, including antifa and armed militia groups. But former top officials in the Homeland Security Department have accused the Trump administration of downplaying the rise of domestic terrorism and even suppressing intelligence warning of the rise of white supremacy.
At the debate, Mr. Trump continued a record going back to the 2016 campaign of reluctance to distance himself from white racists who back him.READ MORE
Mr. Trump was referring to a case involving nine ballots in Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Earlier this month, federal law enforcement officials disclosed that they were investigating whether local elections officials improperly discarded the ballots, at least seven of which were cast for Mr. Trump.
The investigation is ongoing and the announcement unnerved election experts, who saw politics at play, in part because of the disclosure about whom the ballots were cast for. County election officials have attributed the discarded ballots to a clerical error and have said it was not a sign of widespread fraud or cheating.READ MORE
Mr. Trump’s administration has rolled back or weakened over 100 environmental laws and rules, among them an Obama-era clean-water regulation that had been designed to reduce pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and other public bodies of water. The administration has also significantly rolled back or weakened multiple Clean Air Act regulations designed to reduce pollution of both planet-warming greenhouse gases as well as soot and toxins from auto tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and oil and gas drilling sites. It is accurate that the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions have fallen slightly in recent years, but they are expected to increase in the coming years in part as a result of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.
In July, Mr. Biden publicly announced that he was “putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice” that as president he would “impose substantial and lasting costs on those who interfere with American elections.” Mr. Trump has offered virtually no words of concern or criticism about election meddling directed by Russian President Vladimir V Putin.
Nor has Mr. Trump condemned or warned Mr. Putin over a C.I.A. assessment that Russia’s military intelligence service covertly offered bounties for the killing of Americans service members in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump said that he did not bring up the report during a phone call with the Russian leader after it was released by the C.I.A. Mr. Trump has called reports of the bounties a “hoax,” but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took them seriously enough to warn his Russian counterpart.
Mr. Trump offered his backing for electric cars as evidence that he cares about reducing carbon emissions. But the president has actually tried to do away with tax incentives for consumers who buy them.
In 2019, Mr. Trump’s budget called for eliminating a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles, which his administration said would save $2.5 billion over a decade.
In 2018, Mr. Trump also threatened to punish General Motors over its plan to cut jobs by dangling the possibility that he could end the federal tax credits that have helped underwrite that automaker’s electric-vehicle fleet.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who used to drive a Tesla, has also said that he believed the subsidy was unnecessary and that the segment of the industry should stand on its own.READ MORE
Mr. Trump was misleadingly referring to the Green New Deal, a proposal to combat climate change released by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. It is not Mr. Biden’s plan. Though the Green New Deal would significantly alter the transportation and agriculture sectors, it does not literally call for the elimination of cars, airplanes or cows.
Outside the text of the legislation, however, a blog post on Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s website describing the plan did note, “The Green New Deal sets a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, at the end of this 10-year plan because we aren’t sure that we will be able to fully get rid of, for example, emissions from cows or air travel before then.” Her staff retracted the post and said that it was incomplete and published by accident
Some members of antifa, a loose movement of “anti-fascists,” have committed acts of violence. Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-proclaimed supporter of the movement, was also suspected of fatally shooting a right-wing activist who was part of a pro-Trump caravan in Portland, Ore. Mr. Reinoehl was shot and killed by law enforcement agents before he could be taken into custody.
But Mr. Trump’s own top national security officials have said the movement has not represented the most lethal threat to the United States in recent years. Just this month, the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, said “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, make up a majority of domestic terrorism threats. Mr. Wray and other top law enforcement officials have expressed alarm about antifa, but also armed militia groups that tend to be aligned with right-wing ideology.
The Trump administration often cites the killing of a Federal Protective Service officer in Oakland, Calif., as an example of the violence within demonstrations protesting police violence. But that fatal shooting was not committed by a protester but rather a member of the anti-government group the Boogaloo, an extremist ideology that seeks to bring about a second civil war. Members of the movement have sought to exploit the demonstrations to commit violence.READ MORE
The economy was not “booming” in the final year of Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, and Mr. Trump did not “cause” the pandemic recession. When President Barack Obama and Mr. Biden left office, the economy was healthy, though growth had dipped below 2 percent in 2016 in part because of a contraction in business investment stemming in part from a plunge in oil prices rippling through America’s energy industry. Unemployment had fallen steadily.
Under Mr. Trump, economic growth accelerated from 2016, spurred by the fiscal stimulus of tax cuts and increased government spending and continued monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve. The first three years of Mr. Trump’s presidency were similar, in terms of economic and job growth, to the first three years of Mr. Obama’s second term.
The coronavirus pandemic plunged the United States into recession this spring. Mr. Biden and others have criticized Mr. Trump’s response to it, blaming him for deaths from the virus and a contraction in economic activity. But there is no evidence Mr. Trump’s actions caused the recession: every major wealthy country in the world has experienced a sharp economic contraction along with its outbreak of the virus.READ MORE
While it is true that Mr. Trump had vacancies to fill when he assumed the White House, the reason is not simply that former President Barack Obama “left” the positions vacant. The Republican-led Senate refused to confirm many of Mr. Obama’s judicial nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland, whom Mr. Obama named to fill the vacancy left by the death in February 2016 of Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court.
Mr. Trump is taking undue credit for the relative calm that has settled in Minneapolis, a city roiled by protests in May. The governor, not the president, sent the National Guard there. Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota activated the state’s National Guard on May 28, three days after George Floyd’s death. The guard tweeted at about 4 p.m. local time that it was ready to respond to the governor’s request.
Mr. Trump tweeted around midnight telling Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis to “get his act together” or “I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right” — an hour after the state National Guard said it had deployed 500 members to the city.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told the Washington Post, that a conversation that Mr. Trump described “just never happened.”READ MORE
This claim is based on an investigative report released last week by Senate Republicans that accused members of Mr. Biden’s family of cashing in on his vice presidency. The report claims that Hunter Biden “had a financial relationship” with Elena Baturina, a wealthy Russian businesswoman and the widow of a former mayor of Moscow. The report based this claim on an unidentified “confidential document” showing that Ms. Baturina transferred $3.5 million in 2014 for “a Consultancy Agreement” to a bank account associated with a company called Rosemont Seneca Thornton, which was associated with Hunter Biden’s business partners.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer has said that he was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, had no interest in it and did not have a financial relationship with Ms. Baturina. He did not respond to a question about whether Mr. Biden was paid by Rosemont Seneca Thornton or did consulting work for Ms. Baturina.READ MORE
Airport hangars cannot accommodate crowds of that size. While Mr. Trump’s rallies in the past have attracted tens of thousands of attendees, in recent weeks the rallies that he has been holding at airport hangers have been far smaller. According to local news reports this month, a rally at an airport in Virginia drew an estimated 3,000 people, an airport rally in Michigan drew an estimated 10,000 people and a rally in Pennsylvania drew an estimated 7,000 people. Mr. Trump has a tendency to exaggerate his crowd sizes, starting with his inauguration in 2017.
Mr. Trump is right that the growth rate of economic output as measured by gross domestic product was slower after the recession that spanned 2007 to 2009 than it had been following other contractions.
But that fact is misleading in isolation. Growth had been slowing for decades as the population aged and other long-run trends caused the economy’s potential run rate to decline. Nor did growth pick up dramatically once Mr. Trump took office, aside from a short-lived jump on the back of his tax cuts.
It is worth noting that the 2007 to 2009 recession was the worst since the Great Depression, and its depth and length led to labor market scarring, which trapped many would-be workers on the sidelines of the job market.READ MORE
As of mid-September, 1 in 1,020 Black Americans has died of Covid-19 — the highest rate of death when broken down by race and ethnicity. Since the early days of the pandemic, the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black, Latino, Native, and Indigenous people, who are contracting the virus at higher rates and are more likely to be hospitalized for severe Covid-19.
1 in 1,220 Indigenous Americans, 1 in 1,400 Pacific Islander Americans, and 1 in 1,540 Latino Americans have died from the virus, compared to 1 in 2,150 white Americans and 1 in 2,470 Asian-Americans. Such statistics are supported by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which note that people who identify as Black or African-American are more than twice as likely to die from the coronavirus, compared to their white neighbors.
Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, is involved in a Chinese government-linked private equity fund, BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Co., that won a business license from the Chinese government. Hunter Biden was on the board of the fund when it was formed in late 2013, and he later invested roughly $420,000, giving him a 10 percent stake, after his father had left the vice presidency.
But Hunter Biden’s lawyer has said that he has never been paid for his role on the board, and has not profited financially since he began as a part owner. Hunter Biden left the board in April, according to a letter produced by his lawyer. But as of June, he still owned his stake in the fund, which he was trying to sell. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment about the status of that effort.READ MORE
President Trump publicly pressed the Big Ten to reverse its decision not to play football this autumn, and he even spoke to the league’s commissioner, Kevin Warren. But Big Ten officials, who voted this month to try to play beginning in October, insisted that they accepted no federal aid and that Mr. Trump was not a pivotal figure in the league’s deliberations.
Mr. Biden may be relying on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s nonfarm payroll survey, which stretches back to the late 1930s, to arrive at this conclusion. But Herbert Hoover, who was president during the Great Depression, left office in 1933 at a time when the economy had fewer jobs than when he was elected in 1929, based on subsequent estimates. Mr. Biden’s statement also requires the unproven assumptions that Mr. Trump will lose the election, and that jobs will not bounce back to pre-crisis levels before November.
Mr. Trump claimed his rallies have had “no negative effect” because of the coronavirus and that as many as 35,000 or 40,000 people have attended the events. Both are untrue, as is a separate claim that his rallies have all been held outdoors.
At least eight campaign staff members who helped plan President Trump’s indoor rally in June in Tulsa, Okla., including members of the Secret Service, tested positive for the coronavirus, either before the rally or after attending.
Mr. Trump’s rallies have generally attracted just several thousand people, not the tens of thousands he claimed. While the president’s campaign had claimed that more than 1 million people had sought tickets for the Oklahoma rally, the 19,000-seat arena was at least one-third empty during the rally. A second, outdoor venue for an overflow crowd at the same event was so sparsely attended that he and Vice President Mike Pence both canceled appearances there.READ MORE
Mr. Trump did not “bring back” 700,000 manufacturing jobs, even before the coronavirus recession. In his first three years as president, manufacturing employment rose by just under 500,000 jobs. Through August, because of jobs lost to the pandemic recession, the sector it is down by more than 200,000 jobs from when Mr. Trump took office.
Mr. Biden missed the point. Mr. Trump’s taxes reveal he does take advantage of deductions and tax credits available to him. But the main reason he does not pay income tax is because his businesses have lost far money than they make.
Because of the way the tax code works, businesses can use losses in one year to avoid paying income tax in future years. Mr. Trump has no shortage of losses. Take Trump National Doral, his golf course near Miami. Mr. Trump bought the resort for $150 million in 2012. Through 2018, his losses have totaled $162.3 million.
Overall, since 2000, Mr. Trump has reported losses of $315.6 million at his golf courses. And his namesake hotel in Washington, D.C., showed losses of $55.5 million through 2018.
The president was referring to the relative risks to young people from the coronavirus. The vast majority of children do not become visibly ill when infected with the coronavirus. But while a strong immune system may protect them from becoming sick, they are far from immune. Several studies have shown that children can get infected and harbor high levels of the coronavirus. And a small proportion of children seem to develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a severe and sometimes deadly overreaction of the immune system.
The debate on schools has mostly centered on whether children who are infected can transmit to others. The bulk of the evidence here suggests that children under 10 are about half as likely to spread the virus to others, but older children, particularly 15 and above, may transmit the coronavirus as efficiently as adults do. Teenagers are also about twice as likely as younger children to be infected with the coronavirus, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggesting that high schools and colleges may be important contributors to community spread.
Scientists projecting the death toll of the virus in the United States have noted that, should the country maintain its current levels of physical distancing mandates and masking, more than 370,000 Americans could be dead by January 1, 2021 — about 165,000 more than the current death toll.
Should masking and distancing become very widespread, as Mr. Biden references, the total death count would be around 275,000, potentially saving nearly 100,000 lives. Models have also projected potential deaths if mandates were to ease, allowing further mingling and exposure. Eased mandates could catapult the country onto a path toward reaching 425,000 deaths by January of next year.
While Mr. Trump appears to have paid a variety of taxes in recent years, including payroll taxes for his employees, he has paid very little in federal income taxes, according to tax documents obtained by The New York Times.
They show that in 2017, for example, Mr. Trump chose to pay $750 in federal income taxes. That was the case even though he reported earning some $15 million for the year, through a variety of sources. But on his federal tax return, Mr. Trump offset those earnings by reporting losses from his businesses and claiming a range of tax credits, including one that allowed him to reduce his liability under the alternative minimum tax from $7.4 million to $750. It is unclear how his accountants chose that number: Mr. Trump appeared to have sufficient credits to reduce his liability to zero. That same year, Mr. Biden paid about $3.7 million in federal income tax, his returns show.
Mr. Trump often claims that his administration had fostered the best economy in history before the onset of the pandemic. But data show that the expansion that he presided over — which he inherited — failed to measure up to prior economic eras across several dimensions.
The expansion from 2009 through early 2020 was the longest on record. It saw years of strong labor market gains that pushed the unemployment rate steadily lower, until it hit 3.5 percent and held around that half-century low for much of 2019 and early 2020. The robust labor market led to stronger wage gains for low earners and helped to fuel consumer spending.
But many people remained on the job market’s sidelines: the employment rate for men in their prime, for instance, never rebounded to pre-crisis levels.
Output growth, which did receive a temporary boost from Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, has otherwise generally oscillated around 2 percent. That is roughly the level economists see as sustainable given modern productivity and demographic trends, and lower than the run rate that prevailed in prior decades.
And inequality remained very high. The top 1 percent hold almost 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, based on a Federal Reserve survey, while the bottom 50 percent of wealth-holders had only about 1 percent of the overall pie. Those 2019 figures are little changed from 2016, Fed economists said.READ MORE
Top health officials have said that a vaccine may not be widely available until next summer. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist on the administration’s vaccine development program, recently said that Americans would most likely not be widely vaccinated until the middle of 2021, a timeline echoed by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Slaoui also said that the chance of having a vaccine by October or November was “extremely unlikely.”
Of the companies with vaccines in late-stage clinical trials in the United States, just one — Pfizer — has said that it could have initial results by the end of October, a time frame the company has clarified is a best-case scenario.
At the same time, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials in the administration have said that there could be evidence of a vaccine’s effectiveness by November or December. If every aspect of the vaccines’ development and distribution goes exactly as planned, certain people in high-risk groups, including frontline health workers, could get vaccinated this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the first case of the H1N1 virus on April 14, 2009. The Obama administration declared swine flu a public health emergency on April 26. The Food and Drug Administration approved a rapid test for the virus two days later.
At the time, the C.D.C. had reported 64 cases and zero deaths. The C.D.C. began shipping test kits to public health laboratories on May 1 (at 141 cases and one death) and a second test was approved in July. From May to September 2009, the agency shipped more than 1,000 kits, each one able to test 1,000 specimens.
A vaccine became available in early October but, amid reports of shortages, President Obama declared the outbreak a national emergency later that month. The estimated death toll in the United States from the H1N1 epidemic was 12,469 from April 2009 to April 2010.READ MORE
Mr. Biden, at a campaign event in South Carolina last year, claimed that he “got started out” out of Delaware State University, a historically Black university. Many in conservative media interpreted the comment as Mr. Biden claiming to have attended the university, when he attended the University of Delaware. But he was likely referring to the political support he received from the college when he first campaigned for Senate, as he has done in several other appearances.
In a September visit to North Carolina, Mr. Biden called Delaware State University “the best H.B.C.U. in America.” He noted that he began his political career after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “and a lot of my support came out of that H.B.C.U.”
“I am a political product of Delaware State University, a great H.B.C.U.,” he said in May. “Delaware State University is the best. They’re the ones that brought me to the dance, they’re where I got started,” he said in March.READ MORE
The global population is estimated to be around 7.8 billion; roughly 330 million people live in the United States, accounting for about 4 percent of it. More than 205,000 people have died in the United States — a fifth of the million who have died worldwide. About 40,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus are identified each day in the country, and roughly 300,000 each day worldwide.
Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter in March that “banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop” the coronavirus, which critics seized on to argue that he was against imposing travel restrictions. A top Biden campaign official said in early April that Mr. Biden did support the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from China.
Mr. Biden did accuse Mr. Trump of xenophobia. On the day the travel restrictions were announced by the administration, Mr. Biden said that “this is no time for Donald Trump’s record” of “hysterical xenophobia and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science.” But he did not specifically tie the accusation to the day’s announcement.READ MORE
Mr. Trump has signed four executive orders on drug prices, which direct the Department of Health and Human Services to pursue various policies to lower drug prices. But none of them have gone into effect yet. The policy Trump described in the most detail, his “most favored nations” policy, will be difficult to implement without new legislation, and will be vulnerable to court challenges. And that policy would only influence the prices paid by the Medicare program for drugs, not the prices paid by Americans who buy their own health insurance or get it from their jobs.
Mr. Trump was referring to Mr. Biden’s health care platform. The left wing of the Democratic Party has embraced Medicare for All, the universal government run insurance program advocated by Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, and a self-described democratic socialist.
But Mr. Biden has not embraced Medicare for all. He supports expanding the Affordable Care Act, which relies on the current system of private insurers. Mr. Biden would, however, favor adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act — a government run-program that would cover compete with private insurers.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, has expressed reservations about the reasoning in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s opinion in 2012 upholding a central provision of the Affordable Care Act. But she has not expressed a view about the constitutionality of the entire law or about a challenge to it pending in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Trump’s Justice Department is arguing in Supreme Court briefs that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act should be overturned. The effects of that reversal would be far-reaching. Mr. Biden’s estimate that 20 million more Americans would lose health insurance is consistent with calculations from the Urban Institute, a Washington research group with a widely respected model that the measures the likely effects of changes in health policy. But that estimate is a bit out of date, since fewer Americans have coverage now than did before the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, has been endorsed by at least one prominent liberal, Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard. Many Democrats object to the process used to place her on the court without questioning her qualifications.
Eyes of the World: There are many people that are unable to open articles from the Press online as most limit the amount of freebies that you may read without subscribing. For those people, and others, I will continue to post important articles in this series.
THE PRESIDENT’S TAXESHOW REALITY-TV FAME HANDED TRUMP A $427 MILLION LIFELINEMr. Trump with Mark Burnett, the creator of the television show “The Apprentice.” Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
Tax records show that “The Apprentice” rescued Donald J. Trump, bringing him new sources of cash and a myth that would propel him to the White House.
From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.
“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”
It was all a hoax.
Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch.
Twelve years later, that image of the self-made, self-saved mogul, beamed into the national consciousness, would help fuel Mr. Trump’s improbable election to the White House.
But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.
Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES
By analyzing the tax records, The New York Times was able to place a value on Mr. Trump’s celebrity. While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from “The Apprentice” over 16 years — roughly in line with what he has claimed — they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.
The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.
There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”
Just as, years before, the money Mr. Trump secretly received from his father allowed him to assemble a wobbly collection of Atlantic City casinos and other disparate enterprises that then collapsed around him, the new influx of cash helped finance a buying spree that saw him snap up golf resorts, a business not known for easy profits. Indeed, the tax records show that his golf properties have been hemorrhaging millions of dollars for years.
In response to a request for comment, a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, did not dispute any specific facts. Instead, he delivered a broad attack, calling the article “fake news” and “yet another politically motivated hit piece full of inaccurate smears” appearing “before a presidential debate.”
Unlocking the mysteries of Mr. Trump’s wealth has been attempted many times with varying degrees of success — an exercise made difficult by the opaque nature of his businesses, his penchant for exaggerations and lies, and his willingness to threaten or sue those who question his rosy narratives. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain secrecy, most notably his refusal to honor 40 years of presidential tradition and release his tax returns.
This article is based on an examination of data from those returns, which include personal and business tax filings for Mr. Trump and his companies spanning more than two decades. Every dollar is disclosed for the first time: $8,768,330 paid to him by ACN, a multilevel marketing company that was accused of taking advantage of vulnerable investors; $50,000 from the Lifetime channel for a “juicy nighttime soap” that never materialized; $5,026 in net income from a short-lived mortgage business; and $15,286,244 from licensing his name to a line of mattresses.
In addition, it draws on interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, including hundreds of internal documents from Bayrock Group, an influential early licensing partner whose ties to Russia would come back to haunt the president as questions swirled about his own dealings there.
Together, the new information provides the most authoritative look yet at a critical period in Mr. Trump’s business career that laid the foundation, and provided something of a preview, of his personality-based and fact-bending presidency.The President’s Taxes. Sign up to receive a notification when we publish a new article in this series.SUBSCRIBE
A SECOND CHANCE
As trouble loomed in the new millennium, Mr. Trump found an opportunity that would change his life forever.
Divorced for the second time, and coming off the failure of his Atlantic City casinos, Mr. Trump faced escalating money problems and the prospect of another trip to bankruptcy court. On his income tax returns, he reported annual net losses throughout the 1990s, some of it carried forward year to year, a tide that would swell to $352.8 million at the end of 2002.
Few people knew this, however, because he kept up the relentless self-promotion that had served him well: a half-serious 2000 presidential campaign that lasted four months but got him on Jay Leno; a TV ad touting McDonald’s new $1 “Big N’ Tasty” burger; another ghostwritten book.
But if Mr. Trump was still living off his residual fame, his biggest splashes were behind him. Something had to change. And as fate would have it, Mr. Trump got a boost from an unexpected source, one that would do much to shape his future, if not that of the country itself.
Mark Burnett, a British television producer best known for the hit series “Survivor,” approached him with an idea for a different reality show, this one based in a boardroom. In Mr. Burnett’s vision, a cast of wannabe entrepreneurs would come to New York and compete for the approval of the Donald, with the winner to work on a Trump project. Mr. Trump eagerly agreed to host “The Apprentice” and went on to ham it up as the billionaire kingmaker, yelling “You’re fired” each week until one contestant was left.
Some of Mr. Burnett’s staff members wondered how a wealthy businessman supposedly running a real estate empire could spare the time, but they soon discovered that not everything in Mr. Trump’s world was as it appeared.
“We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture,” Bill Pruitt, one of the producers, told The New Yorker in 2018. “We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.”
Mr. Burnett wasted no time spinning the illusion of a successful and high-minded Mr. Trump, telling The Times in October 2003 that the new show was all about “Donald Trump giving back” by educating the public on how his can-do spirit had provided jobs and economic security.
“What makes the world a safe place right now?” Mr. Burnett said. “I think it’s American dollars, which come from taxes, which come because of Donald Trump.”
SELLING THE IMAGE
A surge in popularity brought Mr. Trump’s reality-TV persona to ring tones, hamburgers, even laundry detergent.
But the ratings success of “The Apprentice,” and the advertising dollars it generated, quickly pushed him into the unfamiliar position of declaring positive adjusted gross income on his I.R.S. Form 1040. After netting $11.9 million from the show in its first year, he really hit the jackpot in 2005 with $47.8 million, the tax records show. He made so much that over three years he paid a total of $70.1 million in income taxes (later refunded, with interest, via an aggressive accounting maneuver now under audit).
The windfall, which continued — though in ever-dwindling amounts — until Mr. Trump became president, reflected an unusual arrangement that entitled him, as the show’s star, to half its profits. That included money from product placements on each episode that sometimes numbered more than 100 a month, with household names like Pepsi paying millions of dollars split between Mr. Burnett and Mr. Trump.
When they conceived the idea in 2002, however, the show’s success was far from certain. If nothing else, as Mr. Trump told an NBC executive at the time, it would allow him to market his other endeavors: “Even if it doesn’t get ratings, it’s still going to be great for my brand.”
Those benefits began flowing almost immediately. As early as July 2004, internal marketing plans for various Trump projects called for “exposure through casting on ‘The Apprentice,’” and by 2006, his New York hotel, Trump SoHo, was featured as the winning contestant’s project.
Product endorsements and speaking engagements rolled in as never before.
In the two years preceding the debut of “The Apprentice,” Mr. Trump’s side income was mostly confined to $500,000 for appearing in the Big N’ Tasty burger ad and a small amount of book royalties. But over the next two years, his tax records show, he collected $5.2 million from 11 different ad campaigns and speaking gigs, all propelled by his growing popularity as a reality-TV businessman.
Mr. Trump was not terribly discriminating in his choice of endorsements. He slapped his name on everything from steaks and vodka to a board game and cologne. For the benefit of “consumers interested in experiencing the Trump lifestyle at an affordable price,” as a news release put it, he signed a licensing deal with the Serta mattress company that eventually netted him more than $15 million. Another $15 million would pour in from Trump neckties, shirts and underwear by clothiers like Phillips-Van Heusen.
No endorsement was too small. Warner Music paid $100,000 to feature Mr. Trump in a collection of cellphone ringtones, with the Donald uttering phrases like, “You’re getting a phone call, and believe me, it better be important. I have no time for small talk, and neither do you.”
Unilever, which was looking to promote a new version of its All brand laundry detergent, concocted an entire multiplatform marketing campaign around Mr. Trump. In addition to $850,000 the company paid him directly, tax records reveal, he earned $250,000 more from a public-relations firm Unilever hired to help run an ad campaign coined “Softness fit for a Trump.”
Unilever staged a publicity stunt outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Mr. Trump hoisted a laundry basket with an ad for “All Cleans & Softens” stuck to the front. He had taken a break from the rigors of “The Apprentice” to wash donated clothes for charity, Unilever claimed.
As part of his agreement, Mr. Trump cold-called journalists to talk up All detergent, telling a Boston Globe reporter, “Unilever is a great company” and “This is a product my mother used.” He also recorded voice-overs for an online game that was part of an All sweepstakes, in which a tiny digital version of Mr. Trump did laundry and squawked one-liners like, “The Donald can do the work of 40 dry cleaners!”
The sweepstakes winner was Tracy Wright, a young mother from Brazil, Ind., who had bought her jug of detergent from a local Walmart. She got an all-expenses-paid trip to New York, where she had her picture taken with Mr. Trump.
“We met him the day after ‘The Apprentice’ season finale, so he was incredibly friendly,” she told her local newspaper. “He was in a great mood.”
BUSINESS WISDOM, AT A PRICE
Around the world, the self-made-billionaire myth became a product to lure those in need of money.
With his penchant for using what he called “truthful hyperbole” to play on people’s desires, Mr. Trump had always skated close to the edge of fraud. Soon, he would be accused of crossing the line completely.
In his zeal to squeeze ever more dollars out of Mr. Burnett’s golden goose, Mr. Trump signed on to an array of questionable products and services, including some that claimed to sell insights into his business expertise. The first year of “The Apprentice” was barely over when Mr. Trump pocketed $300,000 to speak at an event in Dayton, Ohio, where attendees paid $2,995 to learn the secrets of instant wealth from a company that was later accused in a lawsuit of running a Ponzi scheme.
In his monologues, he made a virtue of his first round of casino failures, portraying himself as a victim whose grit and intelligence saved the day. People ate it up.
“His presence gives me reassurance,” Lillie Moss, who raided her retirement fund to buy an investment kit at the Dayton event, said of Mr. Trump.
The tax records show that another series of speaking engagements, sponsored by the Learning Annex, paid Mr. Trump $7.3 million for events with titles like “Real Estate Wealth Expo: One Weekend Can Make You a Millionaire.” A book he co-wrote with the Annex’s founder, “Think Big and Kick Ass: In Business and Life,” earned him royalties of $1.4 million.
Unmentioned in the mythologizing were the millions in bailout money from his father or the losses he was reporting to the I.R.S. Nor was there any sense of the gigantic payday — revealed only through an examination of the tax data — that Mr. Trump was enjoying in exchange for lending his imprimatur to an increasingly cynical array of business ventures.
As the years went on, and the success of “The Apprentice” made Mr. Trump a household name far beyond New York, the chasm between truth and hyperbole widened. It was one thing to bray about his late mother — a multimillionaire with a maid and a Rolls-Royce — using All laundry detergent. Now, he was flogging things that could hurt people economically.
In what would be his most lucrative side deal, he teamed up with a multilevel marketing company, ACN, whose clients were told they could make a living from home by selling video phones, satellite television and other services. Investigated in several countries, ACN has left a trail of complaints that people were suckered into spending far more than they earned trying to peddle the company’s products.
Regulators in France concluded that “only 1 percent of people recruited could claim a satisfactory income,” and that the rest lost money or, at most, made about $35 a month, according to court records. Montana officials came to a similar conclusion, finding that the average participant in that state paid ACN about $750 in various fees but got back only $53.
ACN, which has never admitted wrongdoing while settling legal actions by state regulators, claims its business model is misunderstood; on its website, it once posted a page helpfully titled “The Difference in ACN and a Pyramid Scheme.” A class-action lawsuit pending against Mr. Trump and his family asserts that the Trump brand became central to ACN’s business strategy, citing one plaintiff who signed up after she “watched clips of ACN appearing on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”
ACN sold DVDs of Mr. Trump promoting its products, and devoted part of its website to its “Trump partnership,” featuring photos of him appearing at ACN events and his glowing testimonial: “ACN has a reputation for success. Success that’s really synonymous with the Trump name and other successful names, and you can be part of it.”
By the time Mr. Trump featured ACN’s video phone on “The Apprentice” in 2011, the technology was close to obsolete, and yet he played it up, saying, “I think the ACN video phone is amazing.”
His tax returns reveal just how much the company was paying him for the happy talk: $8.8 million over 10 years, including $1 million in 2009 — the nadir of the Great Recession, when desperate people were drawn to promises of a fast payday. In fact, Mr. Trump actively capitalized on the economic anxiety.
In a separate deal he struck that same year, this one to promote the multilevel marketing of vitamins by a company that was rebranded the Trump Network, he gave speeches that persuaded some people to spend almost $500 for a starter kit and try to recruit friends and relatives. Mr. Trump said in a video that people “need a new dream.”
“The Trump Network wants to give millions of people renewed hope, and with an exciting plan to opt out of the recession,” he said.
Within a couple of years, the company behind the Trump Network, Ideal Health, was sold, and its owners declared bankruptcy. Still, it was long enough for Mr. Trump to make $2.6 million selling hope in a vitamin bottle, according to his tax records.
In 2016, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle litigation over Trump University, an unaccredited seminar that persuaded people to pay as much as $35,000 to learn the real estate trade. But that legal reckoning was the exception in a decade-long run by Mr. Trump and his company, described in the class-action suit, filed in 2018, as a “large and complex enterprise with a singular goal: to enrich themselves by systematically defrauding economically marginalized people looking to invest in their educations, start their own small businesses and pursue the American Dream.”
LOW RISK, HIGH YIELD
Mr. Trump lent his name to buildings he didn’t own, collecting big fees as his investors lost millions.
In his sales pitches, Mr. Trump frequently boasted that he “owned buildings all over” Manhattan. Actually, although at one point “Trump” was emblazoned on at least 17 buildings, Mr. Trump owns all or a portion of only a half-dozen. Many of the others he had developed decades earlier and then sold, before his casino bankruptcies made credit harder to come by.
With the prospect of building suddenly less viable, Mr. Trump explored licensing his name to other developers’ projects. The idea gained traction after an obscure developer, Bayrock Group, started leasing office space on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, directly below Mr. Trump’s headquarters. At about $400,000 a year, and a total of $2.2 million by the time the lease ended, according to the tax records, it proved a good investment for Bayrock, which used its proximity to pitch project ideas to Mr. Trump.
Bayrock was a bit of a mystery. Its founder, Tevfik Arif, was a former Soviet-era official from Kazakhstan whose 2003 financial statement, showing $70 million in assets, had a caveat saying his own accountant could not vouch for it. Mr. Arif’s right hand was Felix Sater, a Russian émigré with ties to mobsters, who sometimes went by another name to obscure his criminal past.
Still, it was all good enough for Mr. Trump, who signed on to pursue an exciting concept: condo-hotels, in which buyers of units could rent them out when not using them. Even better, Bayrock mostly just wanted his name; the construction money would come from somewhere else.
Bayrock proposed to bring the Trump brand to hotels around the country and overseas, where Mr. Trump’s flamboyant taste for gold and glitz played well among wealthy foreigners with a caricatured notion of American success.
Years later, in a lawsuit deposition, Mr. Trump said that he discussed “numerous deals all over the world” with his new partners, and that “this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, etc., Poland, Warsaw.”
At the same time, Mr. Trump asserted that because he was not actually the developer, he knew very little about what Bayrock was doing just two floors below his office. But internal Bayrock documents reviewed by The Times show that the company, right from the start, went looking for financing from Russia to pay for its Trump-branded hotels.
A draft plan from November 2003 titled “Russian fee agreement” called for an unnamed broker to provide $50 million for three Trump hotels in the United States and potentially “raise capital for all” of Bayrock’s Trump projects. A former Bayrock executive said the proposal never panned out, although the company later received $50 million from an Icelandic bank suspected of having Russian ties.
Ultimately, despite multiple attempts, the Trump-Bayrock partnership would find success only with the Trump SoHo condo-hotel in Manhattan. But it was a milestone in the evolution of Mr. Trump’s business model during the “Apprentice” era, showing that he could find easy profits from licensing his name not only to neckties and bedding but to entire buildings — and use the TV show to market them.
Unlike his Chicago tower, where he became embroiled in lawsuits over hundreds of millions of dollars in construction loans, Mr. Trump’s SoHo hotel was essentially risk-free for him. His tax records show that, between licensing and management fees, Trump companies involved in the project ultimately netted as much as $9 million, even though they did not build or finance it.
Awash in new licensing offers while riding the “Apprentice” wave, Mr. Trump in 2007 inaugurated the Trump Hotel Collection, with an emphasis on foreign projects. It was largely aspirational: A new website listed “future properties” in Toronto, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Scotland and Dubai, among other locations.
But the fees were already pouring in. Mr. Trump’s profits from licensing deals, which in 2003 barely registered, climbed to $1.3 million two years later and then skyrocketed, hitting $29.7 million in 2010 before steadily declining, according to his tax records.
Because of how the licensing agreements were drafted, with sizable fees up front, Mr. Trump stood to gain even if a project failed. Of the 10 “future properties” initially listed on the hotel collection’s website, three never got off the ground, and five others either were not completed or later severed ties with Mr. Trump. Yet he still managed to collect a total of $46 million from them.
Questions have repeatedly been raised about Mr. Trump’s choice of projects, which often fell apart amid allegations and disputes.
In Rio de Janeiro, where his tax records show he deducted $14,000 for the cost of a background investigation when signing onto a hotel deal, Mr. Trump was later forced to pull out amid a bribery investigation into the developer. In Azerbaijan, where there is a history of corruption, developers with ties to a cabinet minister paid Mr. Trump $5 million to brand and manage a hotel that was never completed after a major backer dropped out of sight.
And buyers of units in a planned Trump condo-hotel in Mexico were burned after putting up some $32 million in deposits, only to see the project canceled with no refunds. In a lawsuit that was eventually settled, some of the buyers claimed they had been duped into believing Mr. Trump was an active participant in the project.
“In doing so,” the lawsuit said, “defendants induced buyers to rely on the ‘Trump brand’ and the Trump name as a legitimate, dependable, luxury real estate developer.”
In what became a recurring theme, Mr. Trump’s defense was that he had merely licensed his name, and therefore had no responsibility for the project’s collapse. As he explained in a deposition for another lawsuit, this one by investors in a failed Trump hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “the developer is really the one that is responsible.”
“We’re like a hotel company, Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons or Waldorf Astoria,” Mr. Trump said. “We are a name.”
A SPENDING SPREE
Flush with new cash, Mr. Trump bought luxurious golf courses that would fall deep into the red.
While Mr. Trump’s tax returns tell the story of how reality TV and its reflected glow made him rich, they also shed some light on an enduring question that has generated much head-scratching, if not dark speculation: Where did he get hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and prop up his golf resorts?
Mr. Trump had only two open golf courses and two more undergoing renovations at the time of his plunge into television, but golf — a pastime that he “spent an inordinate amount of time on,” his niece, Mary Trump, wrote in her recent family tell-all — always seemed destined to become his next financial sand trap.
“I have the best buildings in Manhattan. I have the best casinos in New Jersey. I build a great product,” Mr. Trump boasted to a reporter in 2002. “I actually have more fun building courses than I do playing.”
Beginning in 2006, and continuing over the next decade, he would accumulate 11 more golf courses, forming a new core of what he describes as his empire.
The amount of capital Mr. Trump has spent on his golf properties is staggering and has echoes of his earlier, ultimately disastrous, embrace of casinos. During a three-year period starting in 2014, he pumped $144.5 million into his Turnberry golf course in Scotland, his tax returns show, even as the property has continued booking losses year after year. He has put $213 million into his Doral resort in Florida, with similar results.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s main source of income — “The Apprentice” and licensing deals — went into a steep decline starting in 2011, falling, along with the show’s ratings, from $51 million that year to $21 million by 2014, and eventually to less than $3 million in 2018.
Which is where those unsubstantiated theories of secret payments from Russia or the mob come in.
His tax records provide more mundane answers. They reveal that as he was pouring money into the golf resorts, he also pulled money out of other places in ways that suggested an immediate need. In 2012, he borrowed $100 million against his equity in Trump Tower in Manhattan, one of his more valuable properties. A year later, he withdrew $95.8 million from his share of a real estate partnership that owns buildings in New York and California. And in 2014, he sold $98 million in stocks and bonds.
These one-time maneuvers, coupled with the more than $427 million from “The Apprentice” and licensing deals, would probably have provided enough cash to cover his golf course investments. But they cannot be repeated, and in at least one case — the Trump Tower mortgage — they need to be paid back.
In addition, he has huge balances on loans, soon to come due, from Deutsche Bank, including $160 million on his Washington hotel in the Old Post Office building and $148 million on the Doral golf resort. Neither of those businesses is turning a profit.
In a series of tweets on Monday morning, a day after The Times published the first part of its investigation of his tax-return data, Mr. Trump sought to refute any negative impression of his wealth, insisting that he has “very little debt compared to the value of assets,” and suggesting that he might release statements “showing all properties, assets and debts.” It is unclear what sort of statements he was referring to; the public financial disclosures he must file as president already list his assets and debts.
As the president enters the final weeks of his re-election campaign trailing in virtually all the polls, he is a man politically and financially challenged.
Many of the old financial escape hatches have closed. After he announced his candidacy in 2015 with racist comments about Mexicans, NBC, which carried “The Apprentice,” cut ties with him and he sold his interest in the Miss Universe pageant, another reliable moneymaker. Hotel licensing deals have mostly dried up.
Last month, as he prepared for a Republican convention that would market him as America’s savior in this dark and disordered hour, Mr. Trump turned to two entertainment industry veterans with experience generating the kind of razzle-dazzle that had worked so well in the past.
Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.
He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.
As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.
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. 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.
The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.
The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES
In response to a letter summarizing The Times’s findings, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents on which they were based. After The Times declined to provide the records, in order to protect its sources, Mr. 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,” Mr. Garten said in a statement.
With the term “personal taxes,” however, Mr. Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr. Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. Mr. Garten also asserted that some of what the president owed was “paid with tax credits,” a misleading characterization of credits, which reduce a business owner’s income-tax bill as a reward for various activities, like historic preservation.
The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.
Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.
“The Apprentice,” along with the licensing and endorsement deals that flowed from his expanding celebrity, brought Mr. Trump a total of $427.4 million, The Times’s analysis of the records found. He invested much of that in a collection of businesses, mostly golf courses, that in the years since have steadily devoured cash — much as the money he secretly received from his father financed a spree of quixotic overspending that led to his collapse in the early 1990s.
Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.
As the legal and political battles over access to his tax returns have intensified, Mr. Trump has often wondered aloud why anyone would even want to see them. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he told The Associated Press in 2016. There is far more useful information, he has said, in the annual financial disclosures required of him as president — which he has pointed to as evidence of his mastery of a flourishing, and immensely profitable, business universe.
In fact, those public filings offer a distorted picture of his financial state, since they simply report revenue, not profit. In 2018, for example, Mr. Trump announced in his disclosure that he had made at least $434.9 million. The tax records deliver a very different portrait of his bottom line: $47.4 million in losses.
Tax records do not have the specificity to evaluate the legitimacy of every business expense Mr. Trump claims to reduce his taxable income — for instance, without any explanation in his returns, the general and administrative expenses at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey increased fivefold from 2016 to 2017. And he has previously bragged that his ability to get by without paying taxes “makes me smart,” as he said in 2016. But the returns, by his own account, undercut his claims of financial acumen, showing that he is simply pouring more money into many businesses than he is taking out.
The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.
Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.
His revenue from “The Apprentice” and from licensing deals is drying up, and several years ago he sold nearly all the stocks that now might have helped him plug holes in his struggling properties.
The tax audit looms.
And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.
Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.
At the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., a flood of new members starting in 2015 allowed him to pocket an additional $5 million a year from the business. In 2017, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association paid at least $397,602 to the Washington hotel, where the group held at least one event during its four-day World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.
The Times was also able to take the fullest measure to date of the president’s income from overseas, where he holds ultimate sway over American diplomacy. When he took office, Mr. Trump said he would pursue no new foreign deals as president. Even so, in his first two years in the White House, his revenue from abroad totaled $73 million. And 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.
He reported paying taxes, in turn, on a number of his overseas ventures. In 2017, the president’s $750 contribution to the operations of the U.S. government was dwarfed by the $15,598 he or his companies paid in Panama, the $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines.
Mr. Trump’s U.S. payment, after factoring in his losses, was roughly equivalent, in dollars not adjusted for inflation, to another presidential tax bill revealed nearly a half-century before. In 1973, The Providence Journal reported that, after a charitable deduction for donating his presidential papers, Richard M. Nixon had paid $792.81 in 1970 on income of about $200,000.
The leak of Mr. Nixon’s small tax payment caused a precedent-setting uproar: Henceforth, presidents, and presidential candidates, would make their tax returns available for the American people to see.
A MAP OF THE EMPIRE
The contents of thousands of personal and business tax records fill in financial details that have been withheld for years.
“I would love to do that,” Mr. Trump said in 2014 when asked whether he would release his taxes if he ran for president. He’s been backpedaling ever since.
When he ran, he said he might make his taxes public if Hillary Clinton did the same with the deleted emails from her private server — an echo of his taunt, while stoking the birther fiction, that he might release the returns if President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. He once boasted that his tax returns were “very big” and “beautiful.” But making them public? “It’s very complicated.” He often claims that he cannot do so while under audit — an argument refuted by his own I.R.S. commissioner. When prosecutors and congressional investigators issued subpoenas for his returns, he wielded not just his private lawyers but also the power of his Justice Department to stalemate them all the way to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Trump’s elaborate dance and defiance have only stoked suspicion about what secrets might lie hidden in his taxes. Is there a financial clue to his deference to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin? Did he write off as a business expense the hush-money payment to the pornographic film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election? Did a covert source of money feed his frenzy of acquisition that began in the mid-2000s?
The Times examined and analyzed the data from thousands of individual and business tax returns for 2000 through 2017, along with additional tax information from other years. The trove included years of employee compensation information and records of cash payments between the president and his businesses, as well as information about ongoing federal audits of his taxes. This article also draws upon dozens of interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, both public and confidential.
All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it. While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times.
To delve into the records is to see up close the complex structure of the president’s business interests — and the depth of his entanglements. What is popularly known as the Trump Organization is in fact a collection of more than 500 entities, virtually all of them wholly owned by Mr. Trump, many carrying his name. For example, 105 of them are a variation of the name Trump Marks, which he uses for licensing deals.
Fragments of Mr. Trump’s tax returns have leaked out before.
Transcripts of his main federal tax form, the 1040, from 1985 to 1994, were obtained by The Times in 2019. They showed that, in many years, Mr. Trump lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. Three pages of his 1995 returns, mailed anonymously to The Times during the 2016 campaign, showed that Mr. Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million, giving him a tax deduction that could have allowed him to avoid federal income taxes for almost two decades. Five months later, the journalist David Cay Johnston obtained two pages of Mr. Trump’s returns from 2005; that year, his fortunes had rebounded to the point that he was paying taxes.
The vast new trove of information analyzed by The Times completes the recurring pattern of ascent and decline that has defined the president’s career. Even so, it has its limits.
Tax returns do not, for example, record net worth — in Mr. Trump’s case, a topic of much posturing and almost as much debate. The documents chart a great churn of money, but while returns report debts, they often do not identify lenders.
The data contains no new revelations about the $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, the actress who performs as Stormy Daniels — a focus of the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information. Mr. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, who made the payoff, but the materials obtained by The Times did not include any itemized payments to Mr. Cohen. The amount, however, could have been improperly included in legal fees written off as a business expense, which are not required to be itemized on tax returns.
No subject has provoked more intense speculation about Mr. Trump’s finances than his connection to Russia. While the tax records revealed no previously unknown financial connection — and, for the most part, lack the specificity required to do so — they did shed new light on the money behind the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, a subject of enduring intrigue because of subsequent investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The records show that the pageant was the most profitable Miss Universe during Mr. Trump’s time as co-owner, and that it generated a personal payday of $2.3 million — made possible, at least in part, by the Agalarov family, who would later help set up the infamous 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials seeking “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin.
In August, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that looked extensively into the circumstances of the Moscow pageant, and revealed that as recently as February, investigators subpoenaed the Russian singer Emin Agalarov, who was involved in planning it. Mr. Agalarov’s father, Aras, a billionaire who boasts of close ties to Mr. Putin, was Mr. Trump’s partner in the event.
The committee interviewed a top Miss Universe executive, Paula Shugart, who said the Agalarovs offered to underwrite the event; their family business, Crocus Group, paid a $6 million licensing fee and another $6 million in expenses. But while the pageant proved to be a financial loss for the Agalarovs — they recouped only $2 million — Ms. Shugart told investigators that it was “one of the most lucrative deals” the Miss Universe organization ever made, according to the report.
That is borne out by the tax records. They show that in 2013, the pageant reported $31.6 million in gross receipts — the highest since at least the 1990s — allowing Mr. Trump and his co-owner, NBC, to split profits of $4.7 million. By comparison, Mr. Trump and NBC shared losses of $2 million from the pageant the year before the Moscow event, and $3.8 million from the one the year after.
Losses reported by businesses Mr. Trump owns and runs helped wipe out tax bills on hundreds of millions of dollars in celebrity income.
While Mr. Trump crisscrossed the country in 2015 describing himself as uniquely qualified to be president because he was “really rich” and had “built a great company,” his accountants back in New York were busy putting the finishing touches on his 2014 tax return.
After tabulating all the profits and losses from Mr. Trump’s various endeavors on Form 1040, the accountants came to Line 56, where they had to enter the total income tax the candidate was required to pay. They needed space for only a single figure.
For Mr. Trump, that bottom line must have looked familiar. It was the fourth year in a row that he had not paid a penny of federal income taxes.
Mr. Trump’s avoidance of income taxes is one of the most striking discoveries in his tax returns, especially given the vast wash of income itemized elsewhere in those filings.
Mr. Trump’s net income from his fame — his 50 percent share of “The Apprentice,” together with the riches showered upon him by the scores of suitors paying to use his name — totaled $427.4 million through 2018. A further $176.5 million in profit came to him through his investment in two highly successful office buildings.
So how did he escape nearly all taxes on that fortune? Even the effective tax rate paid by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans could have caused him to pay more than $100 million.
The answer rests in a third category of Mr. Trump’s endeavors: businesses that he owns and runs himself. The collective and persistent losses he reported from them largely absolved him from paying federal income taxes on the $600 million from “The Apprentice,” branding deals and investments.
That equation is a key element of the alchemy of Mr. Trump’s finances: using the proceeds of his celebrity to purchase and prop up risky businesses, then wielding their losses to avoid taxes.
Throughout his career, Mr. Trump’s business losses have often accumulated in sums larger than could be used to reduce taxes on other income in a single year. But the tax code offers a workaround: With some restrictions, business owners can carry forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years.
That provision has been the background music to Mr. Trump’s life. As The Times’s previous reporting on his 1995 return showed, the nearly $1 billion in losses from his early-1990s collapse generated a tax deduction that he could use for up to 18 years going forward.
The newer tax returns show that Mr. Trump burned through the last of the tax-reducing power of that $1 billion in 2005, just as a torrent of entertainment riches began coming his way following the debut of “The Apprentice” the year before.
For 2005 through 2007, cash from licensing deals and endorsements filled Mr. Trump’s bank accounts with $120 million in pure profit. With no prior-year losses left to reduce his taxable income, he paid substantial federal income taxes for the first time in his life: a total of $70.1 million.
As his celebrity income swelled, Mr. Trump went on a buying spree unlike any he had had since the 1980s, when eager banks and his father’s wealth allowed him to buy or build the casinos, airplanes, yacht and old hotel that would soon lay him low.
When “The Apprentice” premiered, Mr. Trump had opened only two golf courses and was renovating two more. By the end of 2015, he had 15 courses and was transforming the Old Post Office building in Washington into a Trump International Hotel. But rather than making him wealthier, the tax records reveal as never before, each new acquisition only fed the downward draft on his bottom line.
Consider the results at his largest golf resort, Trump National Doral, near Miami. Mr. Trump bought the resort for $150 million in 2012; through 2018, his losses have totaled $162.3 million. He has pumped $213 million of fresh cash into Doral, tax records show, and has a $125 million mortgage balance coming due in three years.
His three courses in Europe — two in Scotland and one in Ireland — have reported a combined $63.6 million in losses.
Over all, since 2000, Mr. Trump has reported losses of $315.6 million at the golf courses that are his prized possessions.
For all of its Trumpworld allure, his Washington hotel, opened in 2016, has not fared much better. Its tax records show losses through 2018 of $55.5 million.
And Trump Corporation, a real estate services company, has reported losing $134 million since 2000. Mr. Trump personally bankrolled the losses year after year, marking his cash infusions as a loan with an ever-increasing balance, his tax records show. In 2016, he gave up on getting paid back and turned the loan into a cash contribution.
Mr. Trump has often posited that his losses are more accounting magic than actual money out the door.
Last year, after The Times published details of his tax returns from the 1980s and 1990s, he attributed the red ink to depreciation, which he said in a tweet would show “losses in almost all cases” and that “much was non monetary.”
“I love depreciation,” Mr. Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016.
Depreciation, though, is not a magic wand — it involves real money spent or borrowed to buy buildings or other assets that are expected to last years. Those costs must be spread out as expenses and deducted over the useful life of the asset. Even so, the rules do hold particular advantages for real estate developers like Mr. Trump, who are allowed to use their real estate losses to reduce their taxable income from other activities.
What the tax records for Mr. Trump’s businesses show, however, is that he has lost chunks of his fortune even before depreciation is figured in. The three European golf courses, the Washington hotel, Doral and Trump Corporation reported losing a total of $150.3 million from 2010 through 2018, without including depreciation as an expense.
To see what a successful business looks like, depreciation or not, look no further than one in Mr. Trump’s portfolio that he does not manage.
After plans for a Trump-branded mini-city on the Far West Side of Manhattan stalled in the 1990s, Mr. Trump’s stake was sold by his partner to Vornado Realty Trust. Mr. Trump objected to the sale in court, saying he had not been consulted, but he ended up with a 30 percent share of two valuable office buildings owned and operated by Vornado.
His share of the profits through the end of 2018 totaled $176.5 million, with depreciation factored in. He has never had to invest more money in the partnership, tax records show.
Among businesses he runs, Mr. Trump’s first success remains his best. The retail and commercial spaces at Trump Tower, completed in 1983, have reliably delivered more than $20 million a year in profits, a total of $336.3 million since 2000 that has done much to help keep him afloat.
Mr. Trump has an established track record of stiffing his lenders. But the tax returns reveal that he has failed to pay back far more money than previously known: a total of $287 million since 2010.
The I.R.S. considers forgiven debt to be income, but Mr. Trump was able to avoid taxes on much of that money by reducing his ability to declare future business losses. For the rest, he took advantage of a provision of the Great Recession bailout that allowed income from canceled debt to be completely deferred for five years, then spread out evenly over the next five. He declared the first $28.2 million in 2014.
Once again, his business losses mostly absolved his tax responsibilities. He paid no federal income taxes for 2014.
Mr. Trump was periodically required to pay a parallel income tax called the alternative minimum tax, created as a tripwire to prevent wealthy people from using huge deductions, including business losses, to entirely wipe out their tax liabilities.
Mr. Trump paid alternative minimum tax in seven years between 2000 and 2017 — a total of $24.3 million, excluding refunds he received after filing. For 2015, he paid $641,931, his first payment of any federal income tax since 2010.
As he settled into the Oval Office, his tax bills soon returned to form. His potential taxable income in 2016 and 2017 included $24.8 million in profits from sources related to his celebrity status and $56.4 million for the loans he did not repay. The dreaded alternative minimum tax would let his business losses erase only some of his liability.
Each time, he requested an extension to file his 1040; and each time, he made the required payment to the I.R.S. for income taxes he might owe — $1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017. But virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.
To cancel out the tax bills, Mr. Trump made use of $9.7 million in business investment credits, at least some of which related to his renovation of the Old Post Office hotel, which qualified for a historic-preservation tax break. Although he had more than enough credits to owe no taxes at all, his accountants appear to have carved out an allowance for a small tax liability for both 2016 and 2017.
When they got to line 56, the one for income taxes due, the amount was the same each year: $750.
THE $72.9 MILLION MANEUVER
“The Apprentice” created what was probably the biggest income tax bite of Mr. Trump’s life. During the Great Recession bailout, he asked for the money back.
Testifying before Congress in February 2019, the president’s estranged personal lawyer, Mr. Cohen, recalled Mr. Trump’s showing him a huge check from the U.S. Treasury some years earlier and musing “that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving someone like him that much money back.”
In fact, confidential records show that starting in 2010 he claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million — all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.
The legitimacy of that refund is at the center of the audit battle that he has long been waging, out of public view, with the I.R.S.
The records that The Times reviewed square with the way Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited, without explanation, an ongoing audit as grounds for refusing to release his tax returns. He alluded to it as recently as July on Fox News, when he told Sean Hannity, “They treat me horribly, the I.R.S., horribly.”
And while the records do not lay out all the details of the audit, they match his lawyers’ statement during the 2016 campaign that audits of his returns for 2009 and subsequent years remained open, and involved “transactions or activities that were also reported on returns for 2008 and earlier.”
Mr. Trump harvested that refund bonanza by declaring huge business losses — a total of $1.4 billion from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 — that tax laws had prevented him from using in prior years.
But to turn that long arc of failure into a giant refund check, he relied on some deft accounting footwork and an unwitting gift from an unlikely source — Mr. Obama.
Business losses can work like a tax-avoidance coupon: A dollar lost on one business reduces a dollar of taxable income from elsewhere. The types and amounts of income that can be used in a given year vary, depending on an owner’s tax status. But some losses can be saved for later use, or even used to request a refund on taxes paid in a prior year.
Until 2009, those coupons could be used to wipe away taxes going back only two years. But that November, the window was more than doubled by a little-noticed provision in a bill Mr. Obama signed as part of the Great Recession recovery effort. Now business owners could request full refunds of taxes paid in the prior four years, and 50 percent of those from the year before that.
Mr. Trump had paid no income taxes in 2008. But the change meant that when he filed his taxes for 2009, he could seek a refund of not just the $13.3 million he had paid in 2007, but also the combined $56.9 million paid in 2005 and 2006, when “The Apprentice” created what was likely the biggest income tax bite of his life.
The records reviewed by The Times indicate that Mr. Trump filed for the first of several tranches of his refund several weeks later, in January 2010. That set off what tax professionals refer to as a “quickie refund,” a check processed in 90 days on a tentative basis, pending an audit by the I.R.S.
His total federal income tax refund would eventually grow to $70.1 million, plus $2,733,184 in interest. He also received $21.2 million in state and local refunds, which often piggyback on federal filings.
Whether Mr. Trump gets to keep the cash, though, remains far from a sure thing.
Refunds require the approval of I.R.S. auditors and an opinion of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan panel better known for reviewing the impact of tax legislation. Tax law requires the committee to weigh in on all refunds larger than $2 million to individuals.
Records show that the results of an audit of Mr. Trump’s refund were sent to the joint committee in the spring of 2011. An agreement was reached in late 2014, the documents indicate, but the audit resumed and grew to include Mr. Trump’s returns for 2010 through 2013. In the spring of 2016, with Mr. Trump closing in on the Republican nomination, the case was sent back to the committee. It has remained there, unresolved, with the statute of limitations repeatedly pushed forward.
Precisely why the case has stalled is not clear. But experts say it suggests that the gap between the sides remains wide. If negotiations were to deadlock, the case would move to federal court, where it could become a matter of public record.
The dispute may center on a single claim that jumps off the page of Mr. Trump’s 2009 tax return: a declaration of more than $700 million in business losses that he had not been allowed to use in prior years. Unleashing that giant tax-avoidance coupon enabled him to receive some or all of his refund.
The material obtained by The Times does not identify the business or businesses that generated those losses. But the losses were a kind that can be claimed only when partners give up their interest in a business. And in 2009, Mr. Trump parted ways with a giant money loser: his long-failing Atlantic City casinos.
After Mr. Trump’s bondholders rebuffed his offer to buy them out, and with a third round of bankruptcy only a week away, Mr. Trump announced in February 2009 that he was quitting the board of directors.
“If I’m not going to run it, I don’t want to be involved in it,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m one of the largest developers in the world. I have a lot of cash and plenty of places I can go.”
The same day, he notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that he had “determined that his partnership interests are worthless and lack potential to regain value” and was “hereby abandoning” his stake.
The language was crucial. Mr. Trump was using the precise wording of I.R.S. rules governing the most beneficial, and perhaps aggressive, method for business owners to avoid taxes when separating from a business.
A partner who walks away from a business with nothing — what tax laws refer to as abandonment — can suddenly declare all the losses on the business that could not be used in prior years. But there are a few catches, including this: Abandonment is essentially an all-or-nothing proposition. If the I.R.S. learns that the owner received anything of value, the allowable losses are reduced to just $3,000 a year.
And Mr. Trump does appear to have received something. When the casino bankruptcy concluded, he got 5 percent of the stock in the new company. The materials reviewed by The Times do not make clear whether Mr. Trump’s refund application reflected his public declaration of abandonment. If it did, that 5 percent could place his entire refund in question.
If the auditors ultimately disallow Mr. Trump’s $72.9 million federal refund, he will be forced to return that money with interest, and possibly penalties, a total that could exceed $100 million. He could also be ordered to return the state and local refunds based on the same claims.
In response to a question about the audit, Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, said facts cited by The Times were incorrect, without citing specifics. He did, however, write that it was “illogical” to say Mr. Trump had not paid taxes for those three years just because the money was later refunded.
“While you claim that President Trump paid no taxes in 10 of the 15 previous years,” Mr. Garten said, “you also assert that President Trump claimed a massive refund for tens of millions for taxes he did pay. These two claims are entirely inconsistent and, in any event, not supported by the facts.”
House Democrats who have been in hot pursuit of Mr. Trump’s tax returns most likely have no idea that at least some of the records are sitting in a congressional office building. George Yin, a former chief of staff for the joint committee, said that any identifying information about taxpayers under review was tightly held among a handful of staff lawyers and was rarely shared with politicians assigned to the committee.
It is possible that the case has been paused because Mr. Trump is president, which would raise the personal stakes of re-election. If the recent Fox interview is any indication, Mr. Trump seems increasingly agitated about the matter.
“It’s a disgrace what’s happened,” he told Mr. Hannity. “We had a deal done. In fact, it was — I guess it was signed even. And once I ran, or once I won, or somewhere back a long time ago, everything was like, ‘Well, let’s start all over again.’ It’s a disgrace.”
THE 20 PERCENT SOLUTION
Helping to reduce Mr. Trump’s tax bills are unidentified consultants’ fees, some of which can be matched to payments received by Ivanka Trump.
Examining the Trump Organization’s tax records, a curious pattern emerges: Between 2010 and 2018, Mr. Trump wrote off some $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as a business expense across nearly all of his projects.
In most cases the fees were roughly one-fifth of his income: In Azerbaijan, Mr. Trump collected $5 million on a hotel deal and reported $1.1 million in consulting fees, while in Dubai it was $3 million with a $630,000 fee, and so on.
Mysterious big payments in business deals can raise red flags, particularly in places where bribes or kickbacks to middlemen are routine. But there is no evidence that Mr. Trump, who mostly licenses his name to other people’s projects and is not involved in securing government approvals, has engaged in such practices.
Rather, there appears to be a closer-to-home explanation for at least some of the fees: Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.
The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.
Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both 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.
When asked about the arrangement, the Trump Organization lawyer, Mr. Garten, did not comment.
Employers can deduct consulting fees as a business expense and also avoid the withholding taxes that apply to wages. To claim the deduction, the consulting arrangement must be an “ordinary and necessary” part of running the business, with fees that are reasonable and market-based, according to the I.R.S. The recipient of the fees is still required to pay income tax.
The I.R.S. has pursued civil penalties against some business owners who devised schemes to avoid taxes by paying exorbitant fees to related parties who were not in fact independent contractors. A 2011 tax court case centered on the I.R.S.’s denial of almost $3 million in deductions for consulting fees the partners in an Illinois accounting firm paid themselves via corporations they created. The court concluded that the partners had structured the fees to “distribute profits, not to compensate for services.”
There is no indication that the I.R.S. has questioned Mr. Trump’s practice of deducting millions of dollars in consulting fees. If the payments to his daughter were compensation for work, it is not clear why Mr. Trump would do it in this form, other than to reduce his own tax liability. Another, more legally perilous possibility is that the fees were a way to transfer assets to his children without incurring a gift tax.
A Times investigation in 2018 found that Mr. Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children. It is not possible to discern from this newer collection of tax records whether intra-family financial maneuverings were a motivating factor.
However, the fact that some of the consulting fees are identical to those reported by Mr. Trump’s daughter raises the question of whether this was a mechanism the president used to compensate his adult children involved with his business. Indeed, in some instances where large fees were claimed, people with direct knowledge of the projects were not aware of any outside consultants who would have been paid.
On the failed hotel deal in Azerbaijan, which was plagued by suspicions of corruption, a Trump Organization lawyer told The New Yorker the company was blameless because it was merely a licenser and had no substantive role, adding, “We did not pay any money to anyone.” Yet, the tax records for three Trump L.L.C.s involved in that project show deductions for consulting fees totaling $1.1 million that were paid to someone.
In Turkey, a person directly involved in developing two Trump towers in Istanbul expressed bafflement when asked about consultants on the project, telling The Times there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. But tax records show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million.
Ms. Trump disclosed in her public filing that the fees she received were paid through TTT Consulting L.L.C., which she said provided “consulting, licensing and management services for real estate projects.” Incorporated in Delaware in December 2005, the firm is one of several Trump-related entities with some variation of TTT or TTTT in the name that appear to refer to members of the Trump family.
Like her brothers Donald Jr. and Eric, Ms. Trump was a longtime employee of the Trump Organization and an executive officer for more than 200 Trump companies that licensed or managed hotel and resort properties. The tax records show that the three siblings had each drawn a salary from their father’s company — roughly $480,000 a year, jumping to about $2 million after Mr. Trump became president — though Ms. Trump no longer receives a salary. What’s more, Mr. Trump has said the children were intimately involved in negotiating and managing his projects. When asked in a 2011 lawsuit deposition whom he relied on to handle important details of his licensing deals, he named only Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric.
On Ms. Trump’s now-defunct website, which explains her role at the Trump Organization, she was not identified as a consultant. Rather, she has been described as a senior executive who “actively participates in all aspects of both Trump and Trump branded projects, including deal evaluation, predevelopment planning, financing, design, construction, sales and marketing, and ensuring that Trump’s world-renowned physical and operational standards are met.
“She is involved in all decisions — large and small.”
THE ART OF THE WRITE-OFF
Hair stylists, table linens, property taxes on a family estate — all have been deducted as business expenses.
Private jets, country clubs and mansions have all had a role in the selling of Donald Trump.
“I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”
If the singular Trump product is Trump in an exaggerated form — the man, the lifestyle, the acquisitiveness — then everything that feeds the image, including the cost of his businesses, can be written off on his taxes. Mr. Trump may be reporting business losses to the government, but he can still live a life of wealth and write it off.
Take, for example, Mar-a-Lago, now the president’s permanent residence as well as a private club and stage set on which Trump luxury plays out. As a business, it is also the source of millions of dollars in expenses deducted from taxable income, among them $109,433 for linens and silver and $197,829 for landscaping in 2017. Also deducted as a business expense was the $210,000 paid to a Florida photographer over the years for shooting numerous events at the club, including a 2016 New Year’s Eve party hosted by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.
In allowing business expenses to be deducted, the I.R.S. requires that they be “ordinary and necessary,” a loosely defined standard often interpreted generously by business owners.
Perhaps Mr. Trump’s most generous interpretation of the business expense write-off is his treatment of the Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, N.Y.
Seven Springs is a throwback to another era. The main house, built in 1919 by Eugene I. Meyer Jr., the onetime head of the Federal Reserve who bought The Washington Post in 1933, sits on more than 200 acres of lush, almost untouched land just an hour’s drive north of New York City.
Mr. Trump had big plans when he bought the property in 1996 — a golf course, a clubhouse and 15 private homes. But residents of surrounding towns thwarted his ambitions, arguing that development would draw too much traffic and risk polluting the drinking water.
Mr. Trump instead found a way to reap tax benefits from the estate. He took advantage of what is known as a conservation easement. In 2015, he signed a deal with a land conservancy, agreeing not to develop most of the property. In exchange, he claimed a $21.1 million charitable tax deduction.
The tax records reveal another way Seven Springs has generated substantial tax savings. In 2014, Mr. Trump classified the estate as an investment property, as distinct from a personal residence. Since then, he has written off $2.2 million in property taxes as a business expense — even as his 2017 tax law allowed individuals to write off only $10,000 in property taxes a year.
Courts have held that to treat residences as businesses for tax purposes, owners must show that they have “an actual and honest objective of making a profit,” typically by making substantial efforts to rent the property and eventually generating income.
Whether or not Seven Springs fits those criteria, the Trumps have described the property somewhat differently.
In 2014, Eric Trump told Forbes that “this is really our compound.” Growing up, he and his brother Donald Jr. spent many summers there, riding all-terrain vehicles and fishing on a nearby lake. At one point, the brothers took up residence in a carriage house on the property. “It was home base for us for a long, long time,” Eric told Forbes.
And the Trump Organization website still describes Seven Springs as a “retreat for the Trump family.”
Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not respond to a question about the Seven Springs write-off.
The Seven Springs conservation-easement deduction is one of four that Mr. Trump has claimed over the years. While his use of these deductions is widely known, his tax records show that they represent the lion’s share of his charitable giving — about $119.3 million of roughly $130 million in personal and corporate charitable contributions reported to the I.R.S.
Two of those deductions — at Seven Springs and at the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles — are the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general, who is examining whether the appraisals on the land, and therefore the tax deductions, were inflated.
Another common deductible expense for all businesses is legal fees. The I.R.S. requires that these fees be “directly related to operating your business,” and businesses cannot deduct “legal fees paid to defend charges that arise from participation in a political campaign.”
Yet the tax records show that the Trump Corporation wrote off as business expenses fees paid to a criminal defense lawyer, Alan S. Futerfas, who was hired to represent Donald Trump Jr. during the Russia inquiry. Investigators were examining Donald Jr.’s role in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who had promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. When he testified before Congress in 2017, Mr. Futerfas was by his side.
Mr. Futerfas was also hired to defend the president’s embattled charitable foundation, which would be shut down in 2018 after New York regulators said it had engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality.”
The Trump Corporation paid Mr. Futerfas at least $1.9 million in 2017 and 2018, tax records show. Also written off was at least $259,684 paid to Williams & Jensen, another law firm brought in during the same period to represent Donald Trump Jr.
A PRESIDENT AND A BUSINESSMAN
Deals in countries led by strongmen, tenants who have business before the federal government, and hotels and clubs that draw those seeking access or favor.
In May, the chairman of a trade group representing Turkish business interests wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging support for increased trade between the United States and Turkey. The ultimate goal was nothing less than “reorienting the U.S. supply chain away from China.”
The letter was among three sent to cabinet secretaries by Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, who noted that he had copied each one to Mr. Trump.
The president needed no introduction to Mr. Yalcindag: The Turkish businessman helped negotiate a licensing deal in 2008 for his family’s company to develop two Trump towers in Istanbul. The tax records show the deal has earned Mr. Trump at least $13 million — far more than previously known — including more than $1 million since he entered the White House, even as his onetime associate now lobbies on behalf of Turkish interests.
Mr. Yalcindag said he had “remained friendly” with Mr. Trump since their work together years ago, but that all communications between his trade group and the administration “go through formal channels and are properly disclosed.”
The ethical quandaries created by Mr. Trump’s decision to keep his business while in the White House have been documented. But the full financial measure of his extraordinary confluence of interests — a president with a wealth of business entanglements at home and in myriad geopolitical hot spots — has remained elusive.
The tax records for Mr. Trump and his hundreds of companies show precisely how much money he has received over the years, and how heavily he has come to rely on leveraging his brand in ways that pose potential or direct conflicts of interest while he is president. The records also provide the first reliable window onto his finances before 2014, the earliest year covered by his required annual disclosures, showing that his total profits from some projects outside the United States were larger than indicated by those limited public filings.
Based on the financial disclosures, which report much of his income in broad ranges, Mr. Trump’s earnings from the Istanbul towers could have been as low as $3.2 million. In the Philippines, where he licensed his name to a Manila tower nearly a decade ago, the low end of the range was $4.1 million — less than half of the $9.3 million he actually made. In Azerbaijan, he collected more than $5 million for the failed hotel project, about twice what appeared on his public filings.
It did not take long for conflicts to emerge when Mr. Trump ran for president and won. The Philippines’ strongman leader, Rodrigo Duterte, chose as a special trade envoy to Washington the businessman behind the Trump tower in Manila. In Argentina, a key person who had been involved in a Uruguayan licensing deal that earned Mr. Trump $2.3 million was appointed to a cabinet post.
The president’s conflicts have been most evident with Turkey, where the business community and the authoritarian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have not hesitated to leverage various Trump enterprises to their advantage. When Turkish-American relations were at a low point, a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel; six months later, when the two countries were on better terms, the rescheduled event was attended by Turkish government officials. Turkish Airlines also chose the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia to host an event.
More broadly, the tax records suggest other ways in which Mr. Trump’s presidency has propped up his sagging bottom line. Monthly credit card receipts, reported to the I.R.S. by third-party card processing firms, reflect the way certain of his resorts, golf courses and hotels became favored stomping grounds, if not venues for influence-trading, beginning in 2015 and continuing into his time in the White House.
The credit card data does not reflect total revenue, and is useful mainly for showing short-term ups and downs of consumer interest in a business. While two of Mr. Trump’s marquee draws — the Washington hotel in the Old Post Office and the Doral golf resort — are loaded with debt and continue to lose money, both have seen credit card transactions rise markedly with his political ascent.
At the hotel, the monthly receipts grew from $3.7 million in December 2016 shortly after it opened, to $5.4 million in January 2017 and $6 million by May 2018. At Doral, after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, credit card revenue more than doubled, to $13 million, for the three months through August, compared with the same period the year before.
One Trump enterprise that has been regularly profitable, and is a persistent source of concern about ethical conflicts and national security lapses, is the Mar-a-Lago club. Profits there rose sharply after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, as courtiers eagerly joining up brought a tenfold rise in cash from initiation fees — from $664,000 in 2014 to just under $6 million in 2016, even before Mr. Trump doubled the cost of initiation in January 2017. The membership rush allowed the president to take $26 million out of the business from 2015 through 2018, nearly triple the rate at which he had paid himself in the prior two years.
Some of the largest payments from business groups for events or conferences at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties have come since Mr. Trump became president, the tax records show.
At Doral, Mr. Trump collected a total of at least $7 million in 2015 and 2016 from Bank of America, and at least $1.2 million in 2017 and 2018 from a trade association representing food retailers and wholesalers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce paid Doral at least $406,599 in 2018.
Beyond one-time payments for events or memberships, large corporations also pay rent for space in the few commercial buildings Mr. Trump actually owns. Walgreens, the pharmacy giant that resolved an antitrust matter before federal regulators in 2017, pays $3.4 million a year for a lease at 40 Wall Street, a Trump-owned office building in Manhattan.
Another renter at 40 Wall, for $2.5 million a year, is Atane Engineers, which changed its name in 2018 after a corruption scandal that culminated in two former top executives’ pleading guilty to paying bribes for city infrastructure contracts. Despite the criminal case — which landed the company on New York State’s list of “non-responsible entities” that require a waiver to obtain state contracts — the newly christened Atane registered as an eligible federal contractor with no restrictions listed in its file.
Rental income over all at 40 Wall has risen markedly, from $30.5 million in 2014 to $43.2 million in 2018. The tax records show that the cost of existing leases there has risen, and at least four law firms appear to have moved in since Mr. Trump ran for president.
In addition to buildings he owns outright, there is the president’s stake in the Vornado partnerships that control two valuable office towers — 1290 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and 555 California Street in San Francisco. Vornado’s chief executive, Steven Roth, is a close Trump ally recently named to the White House economic recovery council. Last year, the president appointed Mr. Roth’s wife, Daryl Roth, to the Kennedy Center board of trustees.
Vornado tenants include a roster of blue-chip firms paying multimillion-dollar leases, many of whom regularly do business with, lobby or are regulated by the federal government. Among the dozens of leases paid in 2018 to Mr. Trump’s Vornado partnerships, according to his tax records, were $5.8 million from Goldman Sachs; $3.1 million from Microsoft; $32.7 million from Neuberger Berman, an investment management company; and $8.8 million from the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
THE GATHERING STORM
Threats are converging: mounting business losses, the looming I.R.S. audit and personally guaranteed debts coming due.
When Mr. Trump glided down a gilded Trump Tower escalator to kick off his presidential campaign in June 2015, his finances needed a jolt.
His core businesses were reporting mounting losses — more than $100 million over the previous two years. The river of celebrity-driven income that had long buoyed them was running dry.
If Mr. Trump hoped his unlikely candidacy might, at least, revitalize his brand, his barrage of derogatory remarks about immigrants quickly cost him two of his biggest and easiest sources of cash — licensing deals with clothing and mattress manufacturers that had netted him more than $30 million. NBC, his partner in Miss Universe — source of nearly $20 million in profits — announced that it would no longer broadcast the pageant; he sold it soon after.
Now his tax records make clear that he is facing a battery of threats to his business and his own financial well-being.
Over the past decade, he appears to have filled the cash-flow gaps with a series of one-shots that may not be available again.
In 2012, he took out a $100 million mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He took nearly the entire amount as a payout, his tax records show. His company has paid more than $15 million in interest on the loan, but nothing on the principal. The full $100 million comes due in 2022.
In 2013, he withdrew $95.8 million from his Vornado partnership account.
And in January 2014, he sold $98 million in stocks and bonds, his biggest single month of sales in at least the last two decades. He sold $54 million more in stocks and bonds in 2015, and $68.2 million in 2016. His financial disclosure released in July showed that he had as little as $873,000 in securities left to sell.
Mr. Trump’s businesses reported cash on hand of $34.7 million in 2018, down 40 percent from five years earlier.
What’s more, the tax records show that Mr. Trump has once again done what he says he regrets, looking back on his early 1990s meltdown: personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, a decision that led his lenders to threaten to force him into personal bankruptcy.
This time around, he is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it coming due within 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.
There is, however, a tax benefit for Mr. Trump. While business owners can use losses to avoid taxes, they can do so only up to the amount invested in the business. But by taking personal responsibility for that $421 million in debt, Mr. Trump would be able to declare that amount in losses in future years.
The balances on those loans had not been paid down by the end of 2018. And the businesses carrying the bulk of the debt — the Doral golf resort ($125 million) and the Washington hotel ($160 million) — are struggling, which could make it difficult to find a lender willing to refinance it.
The unresolved audit of his $72.9 million tax refund hangs over his head.
The broader economy promises little relief. Across the country, brick-and-mortar stores are in decline, and they have been very important to Trump Tower, which has in turn been very important to Mr. Trump. Nike, which rented the space for its flagship store in a building attached to Trump Tower and had paid $195.1 million in rent since the 1990s, left in 2018.
The president’s most recent financial disclosure reported modest gains in 2019. But that was before the pandemic hit. His already struggling properties were shut down for several months earlier this year. The Doral resort asked Deutsche Bank to allow a delay on its loan payments. Analysts have predicted that the hotel business will not fully recover until late 2023.THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES
Mr. Trump still has assets to sell. But doing so could take its own toll, both financial and to Mr. Trump’s desire to always be seen as a winner. The Trump family said last year that it was considering selling the Washington hotel, but not because it was losing money.
In Mr. Trump’s telling, any difficulty in his finances has been caused by the sacrifices made for his current job.
“They say, ‘Trump is getting rich off our nation,’” he said at a rally in Minneapolis last October. “I lose billions being president, and I don’t care. It’s nice to be rich, I guess, but I lose billions.”
David Kirkpatrick, Kitty Bennett and Jesse Drucker contributed reporting. Illustrations by Justin Metz.