Donald Trump is a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, he lives for the limelight. He gets totally juiced by the screams of his followers. Their adoration of Trump’s iconic self, the allegedly self-made billionaire playboy, who gets anything and anyone he wants (“They let you do it when you’re a star”) is the narcotic which keeps Trump alive. He can’t get enough of it. Then on the other hand, Trump is a man of secrets. He lives in the shadows and has to hide his dealings, because he’s a grifter, fleecing one mark and then going on to the next. He’s a total financial fraud, as Tuesday’s New York Times piece made eminently clear. He’s fought Congress tooth and nail on any effort made at oversight, which is what Congress is elected to do, and now it looks like the jig is up. Trump might be going to jail.
Journalist David Cay Johnston has followed Trump’s doings for 30 years and Trump’s sobriquet for Johnston is “the weird dude.” He has a must-read piece up in Daily Beast Insider.*
A typical business person tries to grow their enterprises. Not Trump. He squeezes cash out of them as fast as possible. Then he abandons them, leaving behind unpaid debts. Trump is a financial locust who flits off to find another sucker whose enterprise he can devour.
This business model, this utterly corrupt business model, works so long as Trump can find another victim. There is no shortage of Americans gullible enough to believe that Trump will make them rich even as he destroys their wealth. And because he does it with a pen, it’s almost impossible to prosecute these schemes thanks to weak laws on fraud and constrained law-enforcement resources.
This is eau de Trump, his undistilled essence, the guiding principal by which he lives his life. Remember the sophomoric jingle, “find ’em, fuck ’em, forget ’em?” That’s Donald Trump to a tee. He should have that phrase carved on his tombstone, it would truly be the most honest summation of what his life has meant, exactly who he was and how he lived, as a man, in this life.
Trump paid taxes only two years out of the eleven year period that The Times reported on — and Johnston points out that he may have recovered even that money in future years, due to complex tax laws. Plus, we know that Trump hires genius accountants.
In any event, here are the cold hard figures, which may end up putting Trump away, because people do go to prison for tax fraud, and there is no statute of limitations on the crime.
In 1989, when the Trump Organization was hurtling toward collapse, he reported $52.9 million of interest income. That was more than 110 times the interest income he had reported three years earlier in 1986.
The more than $1 million per week of interest for 1989 implies that Trump held more than $660 million of 30-year Treasury bonds or more than $350 million of risky junk bonds paying an eye-popping 15 percent interest.
Who paid that interest?—if it was interest. We know Trump was for years deeply entangled with a major international cocaine trafficker, has done squirrely deals with Russians that on the surface make no economic sense, among other strange financial deals. Was what Trump reported as interest actually payment for something else? If so, was it benign or sinister?
These are compelling questions, and the answers are something that Donald Trump does not want you to see. He’s been hiding his tax returns for good reason, because they offer a bread crumbs trail through the maze of his despicable business dealings; and those expose him for the serial con artist that he is. He built his master-of-the-universe facade, with writer Tony Schwartz doing all the heavy lifting, writing every word of the seminal Trump fantasy, “Art of the Deal,” and then solidified it with his reality TV show. It’s all a pipe dream, designed to scam the simple minded, and this scam miraculously took him to the highest office in the land — with more than a little help from his Russian friends, and the studious enabling of the GOP.
Tuesday may have been the turning of the tide for Trump. It is devoutly to be wished. Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” In Trump’s case, it may be, “the bus stops here.” Trump has lived his life throwing people under the proverbial bus, be they wives, business associates, or the fools that he has conned into maxing out their credit cards and mortgaging their dreams to Trump University — an early annoyance in his campaign, which he slithered out of with a $25Mil settlement.
The pustulant boil on the body politic that is Trump may have been lanced Tuesday, by this one gem of investigative reporting. One thing is for certain, this situation is going to get a whole lot messier before it gets cleaned up.
*the Daily Beast Insider article linked to herein is behind a pay wall. You can’t access it without subscribing, but I will certainly endeavor to answer any questions you want to ask about it.