Trump's Looming Debt Called a 'Time Bomb'

He appears to be personally on the hook for hundreds of millions in next few years
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2020 8:44 AM CDT
Critics Worry About Trump's Looming Debt
President Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House Sunday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) – One big takeaway from the New York Times report on President Trump's finances is that he has paid very little federal income tax in recent years, reportedly because his businesses are doing so badly. But another aspect of it also is drawing attention: The president's looming debt. Coverage:

  • The issue: Back in the '90s, Trump got into big financial trouble when he personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that went south, writes David Leonhardt of the Times. Trump has since called that a mistake, but he seems to have done it again, writes Leonhardt, who is culling big takeaways from the report: "He appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421 million, most of which is coming due within four years. Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."
  • A critic's concern: This looming debt is a "time bomb" and a bigger issue than tax avoidance, writes David Atkins at the Washington Monthly. What he finds "terrifying" is "the mystery of who owns Trump’s outlandish debts, and the degree of secret power they may be wielding over the country." The analysis, highly critical of the president, digs into the implications.

  • Critic's concern, take II: The conflicts of interest in regard to this enormous debt are staggering, writes Peter Weber at the Week. "On issue after issue, how can we know if Trump is acting in America's interest or his own?" His analysis is headlined, "Trump literally can't afford to lose the election."
  • Trump's defense: Asked on CNN how Trump will respond to all this in Tuesday's debate, GOP consultant Scott Jennings said, "He thinks this makes him look smart," per Axios. Indeed, Trump pronounced himself the "king of debt" during the 2016 campaign and made the case that his savvy manipulation of it is key to his financial success. See this Politico story from back then. Trump has dismissed the new Times reporting as "totally fake news."
  • A counter: At Forbes, Seth Cohen zeroes on the debt, noting that Trump's beloved golf courses have reportedly lost more than $315 million since 2000, according to the story. The president also might owe the IRS $100 million, given penalties and interest, if he loses a fight over a $72.9 million refund. Then there's a $100 million mortgage due on Trump Tower. "With massive debts coming due, and the prospect of a substantial federal tax bill looming, Trump may once again be facing financial bankruptcy."
  • From the right: A post at Twitchy suggests that something getting lost in all the coverage is that in detailing Trump's fight with the IRS over that big tax refund, the Times story has confirmed that Trump has been "telling the truth when he says his return is still under audit." Also, it wonders, "which clown from the Obama administration wrote him the $72.9 million check in the first place?"
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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