Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a revolving-door cast of billionaires. One of the silver linings of this disastrous administration is that it has exposed the billionaire class for what it is: just selfish and relatively unimpressive men (and a couple of women) mostly interested in making money for themselves, with virtually no meaningful ethical code. David Cay Johnston is a Trump biographer who has spent a considerable amount of time over the past few decades poking holes in the financial dealings and claims the Donald has made over the years. Michael Cohen’s testimony in front of Congress on Wednesday reminded Americans that Mr. Trump is very likely some kind of financial criminal. Calls for his tax returns to be investigated and released have picked up new steam. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota interviewed Johnston Friday morning to talk about Cohen’s testimony and how it supported many of Johnston’s assertions about Trump over the years.
Johnston: [I’ve known this] for years, since I revealed in 1990 that he wasn’t a billionaire and Donald called me a liar, until he had to put in the record documents showing he had a negative net worth of almost $300 million.
Camerota: When his taxes are revealed, which it suggests it will be soon, what will we see in there?
Johnston: Well, one of the things we’re going to see is that his adjusted gross income, that’s the last figure on the front page of your tax return, in some recent years was less than $500,000. We know that because he got something in New York called the STAR property tax credit on his principle home, which is in Trump Tower. You only get that if your adjusted gross income is less than $500,000. People are going to be very shocked about his finances, and what they’re going to see is that he has the lifestyle of a billionaire but he doesn’t have any kind of wealth.
I’m grateful to Mr. Johnston for his investigative work, but I doubt Trump’s finances will shock me or any one of us around these here parts. Trump’s entire business career is one huge fraud. Johnston talked about how Trump’s finances show a brazen level of tax and loan bending that sounds a lot like straight-up fraud. Johnston says as much, pointing out that inflating insurance claims is technically a serious crime. He also credited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with illuminating many of these very same questions. Since Trump’s been in office, there has been ample evidence that he’s used his position as head of the executive branch to swamp up deals for himself.
The Republican Party will yell into microphones about how the Democratic House committees looking into Trump’s finances are on a witch hunt. We may even get to see Sen. Lindsey Graham all red-faced and catching a case of the vapors. But the least of the charges against Trump are insurance fraud, banking fraud, and tax fraud. The least of his possible crimes. Really investigating Trump’s finances is a job that should have been done decades ago, but Trump skated by the same way that the rest of the uber-wealthy in our country skate by—on smoke, mirrors, and the ego to believe that there are no smoke and mirrors. When Ivanka and Jared get to speak in front of the committees, the only difference between them and their scam-artist patriarch will be their tighter skin.