How Big A Loser Is Donald Trump? Oh, About $100 Million A Year
The New York Times has done it again, and by "done it again," we don't mean fucked up a story and made the Washington Post clarify all the parts that didn't make sense. No, these are their financial reporters, and they are good at what they do. Remember that time the Times did a massive look at decades of Trump's finances, and also Daddy Fred Trump's finances, and found that Trump's entire money life has been an exercise in being bailed out by hundreds of millions of his dad's American dollars, and then doing fraud with it? This new investigation is a natural next chapter in that first investigation, and is in fact the same reporters. And this time it's about Trump's TAXES, because they've got printouts with all the information from his returns from 1985 to 1994. It is some WEIRD SHIT.
You wouldn't understand, PAUPERS.
The bottom line here is that during that decade, Trump, at least according to tax filings, lost just an astounding amount of money, over a BILLION DOLLARS, or an average of about $100 million per year. That's how big of a loser he is. But come on, you dummies, don't you know that's just how the game is played? That is what Trump is arguing on Twitter this morning:
....you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes....almost all r… https://t.co/latony3n0y— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1557312992.0
In other words, "You wouldn't understand, paupers." And honestly, that might be his best argument right now, at least for his base, because Trump has always been a poor man's idea of a rich man, and they're probably inclined to see this as their tough dude stickin' it to the man in a way they imagine one day they might be able to, when their ship comes in. (NARRATOR: That ship isn't coming.)
Fox News of course jumps in with the assist!
Ainsley Earhardt on the NY Times story about Trump's $1 billion+ in business losses: "If anything, you read this an… https://t.co/LX8V8eiP7b— Bobby Lewis (@Bobby Lewis)1557316936.0
"Impressive"? Well, Ainsley wasn't wrong!
Of course, what Trump obviously doesn't want is scrutiny from people who actually do understand how these things work, and as evidence we can cite literally everything he and his criminal administration are doing right now to keep his real financials from coming out.
Here are some things we learn from the Times:
The data — printouts from Mr. Trump's official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president's taxes, information he has kept from public view. [...]
The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.
In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.
Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. [Our bold.]
OK, so there are normal rich real estate developers losing money, often strategically, as they leverage debt upwards and onwards, and so on and so forth. And then there's loser Donald Trump, who managed to do this not only as a real estate developer, but also as a guy in the casino business. Did we mention that The Art Of The Deal came out in 1987? The New York Times mentions that.
As the Times helpfully illustrates in graphic form, he started small with losses in 1985. As he acquired businesses and built hotels and casinos, he was showing adjusted gross incomes of negative $51.4 million ('85) and negative $99.6 million ('86), and one year he really hit it big, with an adjusted gross income of negative $4.5 million ('87). But around 1990, the numbers went really south, because that was the year he reported an income of negative $400.3 million. After that it really goes to hell, with figures like negative $664.3 million for 1990, all the way up (down) to negative $918.5 million in 1994. (The Times reported in 2016 that in 1995, Trump's reported AGI was negative $915.7 million, noting that at that time, a loss like that was so big "it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.")
Here's a snippet of what was happening during those years:
In 1989, he bought a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines for $365 million. It never made a profit, and Mr. Trump would soon pump in more than $7 million a month of his dwindling cash to keep it airborne, New Jersey casino regulators, who closely monitored his finances in those years, found.
Mr. Trump's business losses that year soared to $181.7 million.
Then came the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, which opened in April 1990 saddled with more than $800 million in debt, most at very high interest rates. It did not generate enough revenue to cover that debt, and sucked revenue from his other casinos, Trump's Castle and Trump Plaza, pulling them deep into the red.
As a result, 1990 and 1991 represented the worst years of the period reviewed by The Times, with combined losses of $517.6 million. And over the next three years, as Mr. Trump turned over properties to his lenders to stave off bankruptcy, his core businesses lost an additional $286.9 million.
The 10-year total: $1.17 billion in losses.
But it's fine, you guys, because he was losing other people's money. And, like, Daddy was bailing him out, so it's not like he had to eat Spam or anything. He was fine and all of this was normal.
And sure, the Times notes, some of this can be explained in normal ways, like for instance in Trump taking depreciation hits on all the massive real estate he was acquiring. They quote that book he did not write all by himself:
In "The Art of the Deal," Mr. Trump points to one of his Atlantic City casinos to illustrate the magic of depreciation. If the casino's cost was $400 million, he says, he would be able to depreciate it at a rate of 4 percent a year, allowing him to shelter $16 million in taxable income annually.
But while this example is intended to show the benefits of depreciation, it also demonstrates that depreciation cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Mr. Trump declared on his taxes.
Right. And of course, to be fair, a lot of those massive year-by-year losses involve rolling over losses from previous years, so it's not like he really lost a whole billion dollars in one year.
The tax code also lets business owners like Mr. Trump use losses to avoid paying tax on future income — a lucrative deduction intended to help troubled businesses get back on their feet. Mr. Trump's losses over the years rolled into the $915.7 million free pass from income taxes — known as net operating loss — that appeared on his 1995 returns.
"Troubled businesses." You know, like Donald Trump and all his riches. He was so very troubled, the Times reports, that by 1991, his losses "had grown to nearly $418 million, accounting for fully 1 percent of all the losses that the I.R.S. reported had been declared by individual taxpayers that year [our bold again!]." LOL, you guys, we found the way Donald Trump is the "one percent." It is not the good way.
Regarding Trump's "You wouldn't understand, paupers" tweets above, what's funny is that on one level he's not wrong. Operating at a loss is a thing and it's very common, especially for real estate developers. Operating at losing over a billion dollars in a decade? NOPE. In the last Times investigation, part of the story was how Daddy Trump massively undervalued his assets and engaged in rampant fuckery in order to give them to young Donald and his siblings without paying gift and estate taxes, which is something that lots of people do. But they don't do it on this level, which by definition makes this some next-level shit, if we're going to talk about it in science terms.
And then there's the weird shit.
The other thing the Times finds in this new investigation is that Trump's money (or his loss of it) actually didn't always come from clever real estate deals with other people's money. Every year is a whole new world! For instance in the late 1980s, Trump liked to make money by pretending he was going to take a majority stake in a company, let the stock prices go up in anticipation of that, and then pull out at the last minute, sell, and run away with the riches. But he lost all that money, we guess, so ...
And then there are things that are just fucking weird:
In contrast to his father's stable and profitable empire of rental apartments in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Trump's primary sources of income changed year after year, from big stock earnings, to a single year of more than $67.1 million in salary, to a mysterious $52.9 million windfall in interest income. But always, those gains were overwhelmed by losses on his casinos and other projects.
$52.9 million ... in interest? ON WHAT? And wait, what year was that? 1989. For a quick side-by-side:
Mr. Trump reported $460,566 in interest income in 1986. That number grew to $5.5 million the next year, and $11.8 million the next. Then came the outlier 1989.
Huh. We have literally no fucking idea what that could be that would pay Trump $52.9 million in interest, but we're sure investigators interested in deep dives into Trump's financials are ON IT. Maybe it's somehow related to that first trip he ever took to the Soviet Union in 1987, after which he seemed to become extremely interested in politics for the first time ever. And maybe it has nothing to do with that! But it's weird, especially when you consider that in every other way, Trump was going deeper and deeper into the red around that time.
Isn't it lucky for the president that now foreign officials can pay him to stay in his trash palace, and the US taxpayers can pay him directly for "golf"? It is lucky indeed!
Whatever you do, don't look in the trunk!
Now, it's pretty obvious from how Trump behaves with all his financials that the very last thing he wants is for folks to shine a light on all this and determine, say, where that $53 million in "interest" came from. He wants his base to look at the whole and assume that truly his ways are above their ways and that it's not worth their time to take a closer look. At the same time, Michael Cohen testified that the real reason Trump doesn't want his taxes released is not because they're under audit, as he's so often argued, but because he doesn't want closer scrutiny from people who know better than his base voters.
Add on top of this the way his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is breaking the law in public to hide his more current tax returns from Congress, and how he and his family are having a Texas-sized freak-out over Deutsche Bank, Capital One and their own accountants responding to legal subpoenas, filing frivolous lawsuits to at least slow down the production of those documents.
A while back, Trump said that if Robert Mueller really got deep into his finances, that would be a red line for him. It's always been his red line. And it now appears that Mueller actually saw his mandate more narrowly and may not have really done that deep dive. But Congress is now doing it, and they're going to get their hands on what they're looking for, full fucking stop.
For now, read the whole thing in the New York Times while we wait for the next shoes to drop. We won't spoil the kicker at the end for you, because whichever journalist bylined on the article deserves ALL the glory.
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
Wonkette is ad-free and funded ONLY by YOU, our dear readers. If you love Wonkette, SUPPORT WONKETTE.