2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — June 18, 2019

9 things to know about Donald Trump

(White House)

No presidential candidate’s finances have ever been so complex — and controversial

Introduction

    >> Read the Center for Public Integrity’s latest Election 2020 reporting.

“Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” Donald Trump the businessman once declared.

But as Trump the president today ceremonially announces his run for re-election in Orlando, Florida, there’s no denying that his finances — both personal and political — have been central to some of the most contentious, confounding and plain ugly episodes of his career.

There are the revelations about the amount of money he’s made and the equally incredible amount of money he’s lost.

There are his unreleased tax returns. Hush payments to a porn star and Playboy model. An uncharitable charity. The question of whether Trump-owned hotel operations clash with the U.S. Constitution. Trump resorts earning major money from Republican politicians and the Trump campaign itself.

And, oh, the unpaid bills: for police protection, for his inauguration, from his real estate empire.

While there are easily 99 facts worth knowing about Trump’s personal and political finances, here are nine:

  • Trump’s Orlando rally may constitute the ceremonial launch of his 2020 re-election effort. But Trump has technically been running for a second term since the day of his inauguration — on Jan. 20, 2017 — when he filed re-election paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, allowing his campaign to raise money toward Election 2020. And raise money Trump has: By the end of 2018, his campaign committee had raised $67.5 million. During the first three months of 2019, it raised $30 million more. And heading into April, as Democratic candidates were still announcing their presidential intentions, Trump enjoyed a campaign cash reserve of more than $40.7 million, FEC records indicate. ”
  • President Trump, of course, routinely skewers Democrats. But until early this decade, businessman Trump regularly contributed money to Democrats’ campaigns and party committees — two of these recipients are now even running for president. Among the liberal beneficiaries of Trump money during the past three decades, according to federal records: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($106,000), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($46,050), Democratic National Committee ($15,000), former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada ($9,400), Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York ($8,900), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York ($5,850), former Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts ($5,500), former Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York ($4,700), former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York ($4,300), Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey ($2,000) and former Vice President Joe Biden ($1,000).
  • Trump bills himself a self-made billionaire, but in reality he benefited handsomely from his father’s wealth, starting when he was a toddler, the New York Times revealed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation. As a family, the Trumps participated in dubious tax schemes and potential fraud in the 1990s, the Times found after examining a trove of confidential tax returns and financial records.
  • Since the 1980s, more than 20 percent of Donald Trump’s U.S. condominiums have been purchased in secretive, all-cash transactions “that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities,” according to a BuzzFeed News investigation. More than 1,300 Trump condominiums were purchased in cash by shell companies — a warning sign, according to federal regulators, of potential money laundering.
  • Congressional Democrats have filed a lawsuit against Trump, alleging that he has violated the “emoluments clause” — a part of the Constitution that prohibits government members from receiving gifts or other perks from foreign countries or leaders without Congress’s approval. In April, a federal judge decided the lawsuit could proceed.
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater on May 8, 2019, in Panama City Beach, Fla. (AP/Evan Vucci)
  • The most recent twist on the Trump tax return roller coaster? The Justice Department last week signed off on a U.S. Treasury legal opinion that Trump need not release his tax returns to a U.S. House committee.  A 33-page memo — penned by Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel — concluded that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal’s request for the president’s tax returns reflect “the next assay in a long-standing political battle.” Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, wants access to Trump’s personal and business tax returns from 2013 through 2018 as congressional Democrats investigate Trump on several fronts. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department includes the Internal Revenue Service, has refused to release the documents. The recent Justice Department memo upheld that refusal on grounds of a lack of “legitimate legislative purpose.”
  • Former Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen reported to a New York federal prison in May to serve a three-year sentence for various charges that include campaign finance violations. Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws after he admitted to giving money to two women, including adult film actress Stormy Daniels, so they’d keep quiet about affairs with the president. Payments to Daniels were illegal because they weren’t reported and because the amount paid exceeded legal contribution limits. Cohen claimed that he made the payments under the direction of Trump to influence the 2016 election though the president has denied that.
  • Trump’s latest personal financial disclosure — a document that all presidential candidates must file, separate from their tax returns — offered certain insights into the business empire over which he retains control. For example, Trump earned tens of millions of dollars from his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Mar-a-Lago club in Florida — businesses often frequented by people aiming to influence the Trump administration. In one case, a Chinese businesswoman who entered Mar-a-Lago toting a bag of curious electronic devices has been indicted by a federal grand jury for trespass and lying to federal agents.
  • While several Trump administration efforts and policies have infuriated many LGBTQ Americans — banning transgender individuals from the military and the refusal to fly the rainbow pride flag from U.S. embassy flagpoles among them — the Trump campaign is selling rainbow pride T-shirts for $25, and “Make America Great Again” hats for $35. The proceeds go to Trump’s re-election effort.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, Federal Election Commission, OpenSecrets.org, BuzzFeed News, New York Times, DonaldTrump.com, The Hill and CNN

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