The interweaving between President Donald Trump’s foreign policy and his global activity has long been a disturbing feature of his White House tenure, giving rise to ethical concerns – as well as fears that allies and adversaries might use those activities to manipulate the executive branch. The New York Times historical report on Trump’s taxes over the past two decades has helped unmask the nature of some of those foreign ties – and they’re wider than the president has hinted.
According to revelations, Trump – who broke from decades of precedent by refusing to publicly release his tax returns ̵
Yields also show that Trump’s empire has raised more revenue from abroad than previously known. Over the past two decades, for example, Trump has made at least $ 13 million in a licensing deal for two towers in Turkey; a similar deal in the Philippine capital of Manila was worth $ 9.3 million; and earned $ 5 million on a failed hotel project in Azerbaijan, roughly double what he revealed in an ethics statement.
Furthermore, Trump paid hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes to foreign countries like Panama, India and the Philippines in 2017 than the United States, where he paid the humble sum of $ 750.
Trump has earned a lot of money from foreign sources since becoming president
None of the president’s overseas earnings are terribly surprising, as Trump’s hundreds of companies have continued their business as usual since he became president of America.
In 2017, the Washington Post detailed how Trump made millions by licensing his name to real estate projects around the world. Congressional committees revealed that foreign governments had booked rooms at Trump’s Washington hotel prior to official meetings.
And Open Secrets, a group that studies the influence of money in politics, reported in 2019 that Trump held $ 130 million in foreign assets by the end of his second year in office. According to the researchers, his most recent personal financial disclosures, spanning 2016 and 2019, showed revenues of up to $ 4.1 million from India, up to $ 7 million from Turkey, and up to $ 5 million from the Philippines. , according to the researchers.
“Trump continues to profit from his foreign business interests,” Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets told me, adding that the Times report helped clarify how he is doing it, “as well as other financial entanglements he is paying taxes on. “.
However, Massoglia noted, “there are many gaps because he has not made his tax returns public”. Those personal tax returns would provide an even more detailed picture than the documents collected by the Times.
The Times tax return story, however, still brings home that Trump has made – and is still making – more money from other countries than he has publicly admitted. This is worrying, especially as it could negatively interfere with his job as president and his tenure as the undisputed authority of US foreign policy.
Such as Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and now senior vice president of the Third Way think tank in Washington, tweeted after the story was published: “Our national security officials must act in the interest of the country, not in that of their foreign creditors “.
Why the tax return story is so troubling for US foreign policy
Trump slapped the authoritarian leaders of the three main countries cited by the Times report: Philippines, India and Turkey. It is less clear now whether bonhomie stems from their diplomatic relations or because they lead profitable nations for the president.
Turkey is perhaps the best example of this conundrum.
Trump said last year that he was a “big fan” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but their relationship had some setbacks due to Ankara’s attacks on US allies in Syria and his illegal imprisonment as an American pastor.
When US-Turkey relations were low, the Times drew some curiosities:
[In 2018,] a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel; six months later, when the two countries were in better shape, Turkish government officials attended the rescheduled event. Turkish Airlines has also chosen Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia to host an event [in 2017].
In other words, countries like Turkey can potentially find solutions for Trump’s heart by making sure the money goes into his family’s pockets in hopes of altering US foreign policy. The Trump Organization, therefore, offers nations an unprecedented leverage point to influence an American president.
The money flowing into Trump’s pockets perhaps answers the question Trump himself posed to reporter Bob Woodward during an interview for the book Anger. “It’s funny, the relationships I have, the harder and harder they are, the better I get along with them,” Trump told Woodward of his relationship with authoritarian leaders, including Erdoğan. “Tell me one day, okay?”
Perhaps even paving the way, as the New York Times notes, other nations have placed former Trump aides in positions of power. For example, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made the businessman behind Trump Tower in Manila a special envoy for trade in the United States, and the Argentine government has appointed someone instrumental in the licensing agreement to a cabinet post. of Trump in Uruguay.
The implication of such moves is that some foreign governments have changed their operations and personnel just to appeal to the president (as they say: personal is a policy). And these decisions make it clear that Trump’s activities are not just a secondary nuisance and ethical dilemma – they are central to how parts of the world interact with the United States during this administration.
This is all a problem. Yes, foreign governments that funnel money into president-related business are against federal law. But since that violation of the rules has not led – and probably will not – to immediate action, the greater concern is this: if the president makes decisions based on his private interests, not public ones, then he is subjugating the demands of the United States. foreign policy for the economic result of his family.
The problem becomes more acute when you take into account Trump’s $ 421 million in debt, much of it due over the next four years. His it is not clear exactly to whom he owes that moneyBut it’s not unreasonable, given the scale of the Trump Organization’s foreign operations, to assume some of the debt is held by foreign lenders such as Deutsche Bank, which has lent several hundred million dollars to Trump businesses in recent years. These debts could mean Trump has financial concerns in mind during official chats with his counterparts.
“We don’t know where Donald Trump borrowed that money from,” says Andrew McCabe. “If that money comes from foreign sources, then it really opens a Pandora’s box on matters of foreign influence with the president of the United States. It doesn’t get any more serious than that.”
– Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) September 28, 2020
Ensuring that foreign powers do not have leverage on government officials is why, how Eoyang he stressed on Twitter, “Debt is one factor contributing to the denial of a security clearance. Foreign debt is a red flag.”
Because of the New York Times, that red flag – among others – is flying wildly.
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