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Trump’s Taxes Show Chronic Losses and Years of Income Tax Avoidance – The New York Times

The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

The President’s Taxes

In response to a letter summarizing The Times’s findings, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents on which they were based. After The Times declined to provide the records, in order to protect its sources, Mr. Garten took direct issue only with the amount of taxes Mr. Trump had paid.

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Mr. Garten said in a statement.

With the term “personal taxes,” however, Mr. Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr. Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. Mr. Garten also asserted that some of what the president owed was “paid with tax credits,” a misleading characterization of credits, which reduce a business owner’s income-tax bill as a reward for various activities, like historic preservation.

The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.

“The Apprentice,” along with the licensing and endorsement deals that flowed from his expanding celebrity, brought Mr. Trump a total of $427.4 million, The Times’s analysis of the records found. He invested much of that in a collection of businesses, mostly golf courses, that in the years since have steadily devoured cash — much as the money he secretly received from his father financed a spree of quixotic overspending that led to his collapse in the early 1990s.

“The Apprentice,” along with endorsements and other income that sprang from his growing fame, brought Donald Trump $427.4 million.
Rob DeLorenzo/Zuma Press

Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.

As the legal and political battles over access to his tax returns have intensified, Mr. Trump has often wondered aloud why anyone would even want to see them. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he told The Associated Press in 2016. There is far more useful information, he has said, in the annual financial disclosures required of him as president — which he has pointed to as evidence of his mastery of a flourishing, and immensely profitable, business universe.

In fact, those public filings offer a distorted picture of his financial state, since they simply report revenue, not profit. In 2018, for example, Mr. Trump announced in his disclosure that he had made at least $434.9 million. The tax records deliver a very different portrait of his bottom line: $47.4 million in losses.

Tax records do not have the specificity to evaluate the legitimacy of every business expense Mr. Trump claims to reduce his taxable income — for instance, without any explanation in his returns, the general and administrative expenses at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey increased fivefold from 2016 to 2017. And he has previously bragged that his ability to get by without paying taxes “makes me smart,” as he said in 2016. But the returns, by his own account, undercut his claims of financial acumen, showing that he is simply pouring more money into many businesses than he is taking out.

The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.

His revenue from “The Apprentice” and from licensing deals is drying up, and several years ago he sold nearly all the stocks that now might have helped him plug holes in his struggling properties.

The tax audit looms.

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.

At the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., a flood of new members starting in 2015 allowed him to pocket an additional $5 million a year from the business. In 2017, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association paid at least $397,602 to the Washington hotel, where the group held at least one event during its four-day World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

The Times was also able to take the fullest measure to date of the president’s income from overseas, where he holds ultimate sway over American diplomacy. When he took office, Mr. Trump said he would pursue no new foreign deals as president. Even so, in his first two years in the White House, his revenue from abroad totaled $73 million. And while much of that money was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, some came from licensing deals in countries with authoritarian-leaning leaders or thorny geopolitics — for example, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.

In the Philippines, where Mr. Trump licensed his name to a Manila tower, he or his companies paid $156,824 in taxes in 2017.
Hannah Reyes Morales for The New York Times

He reported paying taxes, in turn, on a number of his overseas ventures. In 2017, the president’s $750 contribution to the operations of the U.S. government was dwarfed by the $15,598 he or his companies paid in Panama, the $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines.

Mr. Trump’s U.S. payment, after factoring in his losses, was roughly equivalent, in dollars not adjusted for inflation, to another presidential tax bill revealed nearly a half-century before. In 1973, The Providence Journal reported that, after a charitable deduction for donating his presidential papers, Richard M. Nixon had paid $792.81 in 1970 on income of about $200,000.

The leak of Mr. Nixon’s small tax payment caused a precedent-setting uproar: Henceforth, presidents, and presidential candidates, would make their tax returns available for the American people to see.

The contents of thousands of personal and business tax records fill in financial details that have been withheld for years.

“I would love to do that,” Mr. Trump said in 2014 when asked whether he would release his taxes if he ran for president. He’s been backpedaling ever since.

When he ran, he said he might make his taxes public if Hillary Clinton did the same with the deleted emails from her private server — an echo of his taunt, while stoking the birther fiction, that he might release the returns if President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. He once boasted that his tax returns were “very big” and “beautiful.” But making them public? “It’s very complicated.” He often claims that he cannot do so while under audit — an argument refuted by his own I.R.S. commissioner. When prosecutors and congressional investigators issued subpoenas for his returns, he wielded not just his private lawyers but also the power of his Justice Department to stalemate them all the way to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump’s elaborate dance and defiance have only stoked suspicion about what secrets might lie hidden in his taxes. Is there a financial clue to his deference to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin? Did he write off as a business expense the hush-money payment to the pornographic film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election? Did a covert source of money feed his frenzy of acquisition that began in the mid-2000s?

The Times examined and analyzed the data from thousands of individual and business tax returns for 2000 through 2017, along with additional tax information from other years. The trove included years of employee compensation information and records of cash payments between the president and his businesses, as well as information about ongoing federal audits of his taxes. This article also draws upon dozens of interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, both public and confidential.

All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it. While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times.

To delve into the records is to see up close the complex structure of the president’s business interests — and the depth of his entanglements. What is popularly known as the Trump Organization is in fact a collection of more than 500 entities, virtually all of them wholly owned by Mr. Trump, many carrying his name. For example, 105 of them are a variation of the name Trump Marks, which he uses for licensing deals.

Fragments of Mr. Trump’s tax returns have leaked out before.

Transcripts of his main federal tax form, the 1040, from 1985 to 1994, were obtained by The Times in 2019. They showed that, in many years, Mr. Trump lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. Three pages of his 1995 returns, mailed anonymously to The Times during the 2016 campaign, showed that Mr. Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million, giving him a tax deduction that could have allowed him to avoid federal income taxes for almost two decades. Five months later, the journalist David Cay Johnston obtained two pages of Mr. Trump’s returns from 2005; that year, his fortunes had rebounded to the point that he was paying taxes.

In 1995, the year Mr. Trump broke ground on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York, he would declare losses of $915.7 million — a sum so large, it could be carried forward to cancel out taxable income for years.
Francis Specker/New York Post Archives, via NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images

By 2005, his fortunes had turned and he was paying income taxes: He had exhausted the tax-reducing power of that nearly $1 billion loss just as he began to see a surge of celebrity income after “The Apprentice” debuted.
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

The vast new trove of information analyzed by The Times completes the recurring pattern of ascent and decline that has defined the president’s career. Even so, it has its limits.

Tax returns do not, for example, record net worth — in Mr. Trump’s case, a topic of much posturing and almost as much debate. The documents chart a great churn of money, but while returns report debts, they often do not identify lenders.

The data contains no new revelations about the $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, the actress who performs as Stormy Daniels — a focus of the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information. Mr. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, who made the payoff, but the materials obtained by The Times did not include any itemized payments to Mr. Cohen. The amount, however, could have been improperly included in legal fees written off as a business expense, which are not required to be itemized on tax returns.

No subject has provoked more intense speculation about Mr. Trump’s finances than his connection to Russia. While the tax records revealed no previously unknown financial connection — and, for the most part, lack the specificity required to do so — they did shed new light on the money behind the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, a subject of enduring intrigue because of subsequent investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The records show that the pageant was the most profitable Miss Universe during Mr. Trump’s time as co-owner, and that it generated a personal payday of $2.3 million — made possible, at least in part, by the Agalarov family, who would later help set up the infamous 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials seeking “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin.

In August, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that looked extensively into the circumstances of the Moscow pageant, and revealed that as recently as February, investigators subpoenaed the Russian singer Emin Agalarov, who was involved in planning it. Mr. Agalarov’s father, Aras, a billionaire who boasts of close ties to Mr. Putin, was Mr. Trump’s partner in the event.

Emin Agalarov, left, a Russian singer whose family was involved in planning the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Mr. Trump made $2.3 million from that year’s pageant, the records show.
Irina Bujor/Kommersant.ru, via Associated Press

The committee interviewed a top Miss Universe executive, Paula Shugart, who said the Agalarovs offered to underwrite the event; their family business, Crocus Group, paid a $6 million licensing fee and another $6 million in expenses. But while the pageant proved to be a financial loss for the Agalarovs — they recouped only $2 million — Ms. Shugart told investigators that it was “one of the most lucrative deals” the Miss Universe organization ever made, according to the report.

That is borne out by the tax records. They show that in 2013, the pageant reported $31.6 million in gross receipts — the highest since at least the 1990s — allowing Mr. Trump and his co-owner, NBC, to split profits of $4.7 million. By comparison, Mr. Trump and NBC shared losses of $2 million from the pageant the year before the Moscow event, and $3.8 million from the one the year after.

Losses reported by businesses Mr. Trump owns and runs helped wipe out tax bills on hundreds of millions of dollars in celebrity income.

While Mr. Trump crisscrossed the country in 2015 describing himself as uniquely qualified to be president because he was “really rich” and had “built a great company,” his accountants back in New York were busy putting the finishing touches on his 2014 tax return.

After tabulating all the profits and losses from Mr. Trump’s various endeavors on Form 1040, the accountants came to Line 56, where they had to enter the total income tax the candidate was required to pay. They needed space for only a single figure.

Zero.

For Mr. Trump, that bottom line must have looked familiar. It was the fourth year in a row that he had not paid a penny of federal income taxes.

Mr. Trump’s avoidance of income taxes is one of the most striking discoveries in his tax returns, especially given the vast wash of income itemized elsewhere in those filings.

Mr. Trump’s net income from his fame — his 50 percent share of “The Apprentice,” together with the riches showered upon him by the scores of suitors paying to use his name — totaled $427.4 million through 2018. A further $176.5 million in profit came to him through his investment in two highly successful office buildings.

So how did he escape nearly all taxes on that fortune? Even the effective tax rate paid by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans could have caused him to pay more than $100 million.

The answer rests in a third category of Mr. Trump’s endeavors: businesses that he owns and runs himself. The collective and persistent losses he reported from them largely absolved him from paying federal income taxes on the $600 million from “The Apprentice,” branding deals and investments.

That equation is a key element of the alchemy of Mr. Trump’s finances: using the proceeds of his celebrity to purchase and prop up risky businesses, then wielding their losses to avoid taxes.

Throughout his career, Mr. Trump’s business losses have often accumulated in sums larger than could be used to reduce taxes on other income in a single year. But the tax code offers a workaround: With some restrictions, business owners can carry forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years.

That provision has been the background music to Mr. Trump’s life. As The Times’s previous reporting on his 1995 return showed, the nearly $1 billion in losses from his early-1990s collapse generated a tax deduction that he could use for up to 18 years going forward.

The newer tax returns show that Mr. Trump burned through the last of the tax-reducing power of that $1 billion in 2005, just as a torrent of entertainment riches began coming his way following the debut of “The Apprentice” the year before.

For 2005 through 2007, cash from licensing deals and endorsements filled Mr. Trump’s bank accounts with $120 million in pure profit. With no prior-year losses left to reduce his taxable income, he paid substantial federal income taxes for the first time in his life: a total of $70.1 million.

As his celebrity income swelled, Mr. Trump went on a buying spree unlike any he had had since the 1980s, when eager banks and his father’s wealth allowed him to buy or build the casinos, airplanes, yacht and old hotel that would soon lay him low.

When “The Apprentice” premiered, Mr. Trump had opened only two golf courses and was renovating two more. By the end of 2015, he had 15 courses and was transforming the Old Post Office building in Washington into a Trump International Hotel. But rather than making him wealthier, the tax records reveal as never before, each new acquisition only fed the downward draft on his bottom line.

Consider the results at his largest golf resort, Trump National Doral, near Miami. Mr. Trump bought the resort for $150 million in 2012; through 2018, his losses have totaled $162.3 million. He has pumped $213 million of fresh cash into Doral, tax records show, and has a $125 million mortgage balance coming due in three years.

Trump National Doral near Miami, Mr. Trump’s largest golf resort. Since 2000, he has reported losing more than $315.6 million at his golf courses.
Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

His three courses in Europe — two in Scotland and one in Ireland — have reported a combined $63.6 million in losses.

Over all, since 2000, Mr. Trump has reported losses of $315.6 million at the golf courses that are his prized possessions.

For all of its Trumpworld allure, his Washington hotel, opened in 2016, has not fared much better. Its tax records show losses through 2018 of $55.5 million.

And Trump Corporation, a real estate services company, has reported losing $134 million since 2000. Mr. Trump personally bankrolled the losses year after year, marking his cash infusions as a loan with an ever-increasing balance, his tax records show. In 2016, he gave up on getting paid back and turned the loan into a cash contribution.

Mr. Trump has often posited that his losses are more accounting magic than actual money out the door.

Last year, after The Times published details of his tax returns from the 1980s and 1990s, he attributed the red ink to depreciation, which he said in a tweet would show “losses in almost all cases” and that “much was non monetary.”

“I love depreciation,” Mr. Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016.

Depreciation, though, is not a magic wand — it involves real money spent or borrowed to buy buildings or other assets that are expected to last years. Those costs must be spread out as expenses and deducted over the useful life of the asset. Even so, the rules do hold particular advantages for real estate developers like Mr. Trump, who are allowed to use their real estate losses to reduce their taxable income from other activities.

What the tax records for Mr. Trump’s businesses show, however, is that he has lost chunks of his fortune even before depreciation is figured in. The three European golf courses, the Washington hotel, Doral and Trump Corporation reported losing a total of $150.3 million from 2010 through 2018, without including depreciation as an expense.

To see what a successful business looks like, depreciation or not, look no further than one in Mr. Trump’s portfolio that he does not manage.

After plans for a Trump-branded mini-city on the Far West Side of Manhattan stalled in the 1990s, Mr. Trump’s stake was sold by his partner to Vornado Realty Trust. Mr. Trump objected to the sale in court, saying he had not been consulted, but he ended up with a 30 percent share of two valuable office buildings owned and operated by Vornado.

His share of the profits through the end of 2018 totaled $176.5 million, with depreciation factored in. He has never had to invest more money in the partnership, tax records show.

Among businesses he runs, Mr. Trump’s first success remains his best. The retail and commercial spaces at Trump Tower, completed in 1983, have reliably delivered more than $20 million a year in profits, a total of $336.3 million since 2000 that has done much to help keep him afloat.

Mr. Trump has an established track record of stiffing his lenders. But the tax returns reveal that he has failed to pay back far more money than previously known: a total of $287 million since 2010.

The I.R.S. considers forgiven debt to be income, but Mr. Trump was able to avoid taxes on much of that money by reducing his ability to declare future business losses. For the rest, he took advantage of a provision of the Great Recession bailout that allowed income from canceled debt to be completely deferred for five years, then spread out evenly over the next five. He declared the first $28.2 million in 2014.

Once again, his business losses mostly absolved his tax responsibilities. He paid no federal income taxes for 2014.

Mr. Trump was periodically required to pay a parallel income tax called the alternative minimum tax, created as a tripwire to prevent wealthy people from using huge deductions, including business losses, to entirely wipe out their tax liabilities.

Mr. Trump paid alternative minimum tax in seven years between 2000 and 2017 — a total of $24.3 million, excluding refunds he received after filing. For 2015, he paid $641,931, his first payment of any federal income tax since 2010.

As he settled into the Oval Office, his tax bills soon returned to form. His potential taxable income in 2016 and 2017 included $24.8 million in profits from sources related to his celebrity status and $56.4 million for the loans he did not repay. The dreaded alternative minimum tax would let his business losses erase only some of his liability.

Each time, he requested an extension to file his 1040; and each time, he made the required payment to the I.R.S. for income taxes he might owe — $1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017. But virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.

To cancel out the tax bills, Mr. Trump made use of $9.7 million in business investment credits, at least some of which related to his renovation of the Old Post Office hotel, which qualified for a historic-preservation tax break. Although he had more than enough credits to owe no taxes at all, his accountants appear to have carved out an allowance for a small tax liability for both 2016 and 2017.

When they got to line 56, the one for income taxes due, the amount was the same each year: $750.

“The Apprentice” created what was probably the biggest income tax bite of Mr. Trump’s life. During the Great Recession bailout, he asked for the money back.

Testifying before Congress in February 2019, the president’s estranged personal lawyer, Mr. Cohen, recalled Mr. Trump’s showing him a huge check from the U.S. Treasury some years earlier and musing “that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving someone like him that much money back.”

In fact, confidential records show that starting in 2010 he claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million — all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

The legitimacy of that refund is at the center of the audit battle that he has long been waging, out of public view, with the I.R.S.

The records that The Times reviewed square with the way Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited, without explanation, an ongoing audit as grounds for refusing to release his tax returns. He alluded to it as recently as July on Fox News, when he told Sean Hannity, “They treat me horribly, the I.R.S., horribly.”

And while the records do not lay out all the details of the audit, they match his lawyers’ statement during the 2016 campaign that audits of his returns for 2009 and subsequent years remained open, and involved “transactions or activities that were also reported on returns for 2008 and earlier.”

Mr. Trump harvested that refund bonanza by declaring huge business losses — a total of $1.4 billion from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 — that tax laws had prevented him from using in prior years.

But to turn that long arc of failure into a giant refund check, he relied on some deft accounting footwork and an unwitting gift from an unlikely source — Mr. Obama.

Business losses can work like a tax-avoidance coupon: A dollar lost on one business reduces a dollar of taxable income from elsewhere. The types and amounts of income that can be used in a given year vary, depending on an owner’s tax status. But some losses can be saved for later use, or even used to request a refund on taxes paid in a prior year.

Until 2009, those coupons could be used to wipe away taxes going back only two years. But that November, the window was more than doubled by a little-noticed provision in a bill Mr. Obama signed as part of the Great Recession recovery effort. Now business owners could request full refunds of taxes paid in the prior four years, and 50 percent of those from the year before that.

Mr. Trump had paid no income taxes in 2008. But the change meant that when he filed his taxes for 2009, he could seek a refund of not just the $13.3 million he had paid in 2007, but also the combined $56.9 million paid in 2005 and 2006, when “The Apprentice” created what was likely the biggest income tax bite of his life.

The records reviewed by The Times indicate that Mr. Trump filed for the first of several tranches of his refund several weeks later, in January 2010. That set off what tax professionals refer to as a “quickie refund,” a check processed in 90 days on a tentative basis, pending an audit by the I.R.S.

His total federal income tax refund would eventually grow to $70.1 million, plus $2,733,184 in interest. He also received $21.2 million in state and local refunds, which often piggyback on federal filings.

Whether Mr. Trump gets to keep the cash, though, remains far from a sure thing.

Refunds require the approval of I.R.S. auditors and an opinion of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan panel better known for reviewing the impact of tax legislation. Tax law requires the committee to weigh in on all refunds larger than $2 million to individuals.

Records show that the results of an audit of Mr. Trump’s refund were sent to the joint committee in the spring of 2011. An agreement was reached in late 2014, the documents indicate, but the audit resumed and grew to include Mr. Trump’s returns for 2010 through 2013. In the spring of 2016, with Mr. Trump closing in on the Republican nomination, the case was sent back to the committee. It has remained there, unresolved, with the statute of limitations repeatedly pushed forward.

Precisely why the case has stalled is not clear. But experts say it suggests that the gap between the sides remains wide. If negotiations were to deadlock, the case would move to federal court, where it could become a matter of public record.

The dispute may center on a single claim that jumps off the page of Mr. Trump’s 2009 tax return: a declaration of more than $700 million in business losses that he had not been allowed to use in prior years. Unleashing that giant tax-avoidance coupon enabled him to receive some or all of his refund.

The material obtained by The Times does not identify the business or businesses that generated those losses. But the losses were a kind that can be claimed only when partners give up their interest in a business. And in 2009, Mr. Trump parted ways with a giant money loser: his long-failing Atlantic City casinos.

Mr. Trump announced in 2009 that he was abandoning his stake in his Atlantic City casino business.
Mark Makela for The New York Times

After Mr. Trump’s bondholders rebuffed his offer to buy them out, and with a third round of bankruptcy only a week away, Mr. Trump announced in February 2009 that he was quitting the board of directors.

“If I’m not going to run it, I don’t want to be involved in it,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m one of the largest developers in the world. I have a lot of cash and plenty of places I can go.”

The same day, he notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that he had “determined that his partnership interests are worthless and lack potential to regain value” and was “hereby abandoning” his stake.

The language was crucial. Mr. Trump was using the precise wording of I.R.S. rules governing the most beneficial, and perhaps aggressive, method for business owners to avoid taxes when separating from a business.

A partner who walks away from a business with nothing — what tax laws refer to as abandonment — can suddenly declare all the losses on the business that could not be used in prior years. But there are a few catches, including this: Abandonment is essentially an all-or-nothing proposition. If the I.R.S. learns that the owner received anything of value, the allowable losses are reduced to just $3,000 a year.

And Mr. Trump does appear to have received something. When the casino bankruptcy concluded, he got 5 percent of the stock in the new company. The materials reviewed by The Times do not make clear whether Mr. Trump’s refund application reflected his public declaration of abandonment. If it did, that 5 percent could place his entire refund in question.

If the auditors ultimately disallow Mr. Trump’s $72.9 million federal refund, he will be forced to return that money with interest, and possibly penalties, a total that could exceed $100 million. He could also be ordered to return the state and local refunds based on the same claims.

In response to a question about the audit, Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, said facts cited by The Times were incorrect, without citing specifics. He did, however, write that it was “illogical” to say Mr. Trump had not paid taxes for those three years just because the money was later refunded.

“While you claim that President Trump paid no taxes in 10 of the 15 previous years,” Mr. Garten said, “you also assert that President Trump claimed a massive refund for tens of millions for taxes he did pay. These two claims are entirely inconsistent and, in any event, not supported by the facts.”

House Democrats who have been in hot pursuit of Mr. Trump’s tax returns most likely have no idea that at least some of the records are sitting in a congressional office building. George Yin, a former chief of staff for the joint committee, said that any identifying information about taxpayers under review was tightly held among a handful of staff lawyers and was rarely shared with politicians assigned to the committee.

It is possible that the case has been paused because Mr. Trump is president, which would raise the personal stakes of re-election. If the recent Fox interview is any indication, Mr. Trump seems increasingly agitated about the matter.

“It’s a disgrace what’s happened,” he told Mr. Hannity. “We had a deal done. In fact, it was — I guess it was signed even. And once I ran, or once I won, or somewhere back a long time ago, everything was like, ‘Well, let’s start all over again.’ It’s a disgrace.”

Helping to reduce Mr. Trump’s tax bills are unidentified consultants’ fees, some of which can be matched to payments received by Ivanka Trump.

Examining the Trump Organization’s tax records, a curious pattern emerges: Between 2010 and 2018, Mr. Trump wrote off some $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as a business expense across nearly all of his projects.

In most cases the fees were roughly one-fifth of his income: In Azerbaijan, Mr. Trump collected $5 million on a hotel deal and reported $1.1 million in consulting fees, while in Dubai it was $3 million with a $630,000 fee, and so on.

Mysterious big payments in business deals can raise red flags, particularly in places where bribes or kickbacks to middlemen are routine. But there is no evidence that Mr. Trump, who mostly licenses his name to other people’s projects and is not involved in securing government approvals, has engaged in such practices.

Rather, there appears to be a closer-to-home explanation for at least some of the fees: Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.

The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.

Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. with their father at an announcement of the Vancouver hotel project in 2013. Ms. Trump appears to have both managed that deal, and another in Hawaii, as a salaried Trump Organization executive, and also been paid as a “consultant” on them.
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.

When asked about the arrangement, the Trump Organization lawyer, Mr. Garten, did not comment.

Employers can deduct consulting fees as a business expense and also avoid the withholding taxes that apply to wages. To claim the deduction, the consulting arrangement must be an “ordinary and necessary” part of running the business, with fees that are reasonable and market-based, according to the I.R.S. The recipient of the fees is still required to pay income tax.

The I.R.S. has pursued civil penalties against some business owners who devised schemes to avoid taxes by paying exorbitant fees to related parties who were not in fact independent contractors. A 2011 tax court case centered on the I.R.S.’s denial of almost $3 million in deductions for consulting fees the partners in an Illinois accounting firm paid themselves via corporations they created. The court concluded that the partners had structured the fees to “distribute profits, not to compensate for services.”

There is no indication that the I.R.S. has questioned Mr. Trump’s practice of deducting millions of dollars in consulting fees. If the payments to his daughter were compensation for work, it is not clear why Mr. Trump would do it in this form, other than to reduce his own tax liability. Another, more legally perilous possibility is that the fees were a way to transfer assets to his children without incurring a gift tax.

A Times investigation in 2018 found that Mr. Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children. It is not possible to discern from this newer collection of tax records whether intra-family financial maneuverings were a motivating factor.

However, the fact that some of the consulting fees are identical to those reported by Mr. Trump’s daughter raises the question of whether this was a mechanism the president used to compensate his adult children involved with his business. Indeed, in some instances where large fees were claimed, people with direct knowledge of the projects were not aware of any outside consultants who would have been paid.

On the failed hotel deal in Azerbaijan, which was plagued by suspicions of corruption, a Trump Organization lawyer told The New Yorker the company was blameless because it was merely a licenser and had no substantive role, adding, “We did not pay any money to anyone.” Yet, the tax records for three Trump L.L.C.s involved in that project show deductions for consulting fees totaling $1.1 million that were paid to someone.

In Turkey, a person directly involved in developing two Trump towers in Istanbul expressed bafflement when asked about consultants on the project, telling The Times there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. But tax records show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million.

Ms. Trump disclosed in her public filing that the fees she received were paid through TTT Consulting L.L.C., which she said provided “consulting, licensing and management services for real estate projects.” Incorporated in Delaware in December 2005, the firm is one of several Trump-related entities with some variation of TTT or TTTT in the name that appear to refer to members of the Trump family.

Like her brothers Donald Jr. and Eric, Ms. Trump was a longtime employee of the Trump Organization and an executive officer for more than 200 Trump companies that licensed or managed hotel and resort properties. The tax records show that the three siblings had each drawn a salary from their father’s company — roughly $480,000 a year, jumping to about $2 million after Mr. Trump became president — though Ms. Trump no longer receives a salary. What’s more, Mr. Trump has said the children were intimately involved in negotiating and managing his projects. When asked in a 2011 lawsuit deposition whom he relied on to handle important details of his licensing deals, he named only Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric.

On Ms. Trump’s now-defunct website, which explains her role at the Trump Organization, she was not identified as a consultant. Rather, she has been described as a senior executive who “actively participates in all aspects of both Trump and Trump branded projects, including deal evaluation, predevelopment planning, financing, design, construction, sales and marketing, and ensuring that Trump’s world-renowned physical and operational standards are met.

“She is involved in all decisions — large and small.”

Hair stylists, table linens, property taxes on a family estate — all have been deducted as business expenses.

Private jets, country clubs and mansions have all had a role in the selling of Donald Trump.

“I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

If the singular Trump product is Trump in an exaggerated form — the man, the lifestyle, the acquisitiveness — then everything that feeds the image, including the cost of his businesses, can be written off on his taxes. Mr. Trump may be reporting business losses to the government, but he can still live a life of wealth and write it off.

Take, for example, Mar-a-Lago, now the president’s permanent residence as well as a private club and stage set on which Trump luxury plays out. As a business, it is also the source of millions of dollars in expenses deducted from taxable income, among them $109,433 for linens and silver and $197,829 for landscaping in 2017. Also deducted as a business expense was the $210,000 paid to a Florida photographer over the years for shooting numerous events at the club, including a 2016 New Year’s Eve party hosted by Mr. Trump.

Mar-a-Lago, where a flood of new members starting in 2015 allowed Mr. Trump to pocket an additional $5 million a year from the business, is also a source of millions in tax deductions.
Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

In allowing business expenses to be deducted, the I.R.S. requires that they be “ordinary and necessary,” a loosely defined standard often interpreted generously by business owners.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s most generous interpretation of the business expense write-off is his treatment of the Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, N.Y.

Seven Springs is a throwback to another era. The main house, built in 1919 by Eugene I. Meyer Jr., the onetime head of the Federal Reserve who bought The Washington Post in 1933, sits on more than 200 acres of lush, almost untouched land just an hour’s drive north of New York City.

“The mansion is 50,000 square feet, has three pools, carriage houses, and is surrounded by nature preserves,” according to The Trump Organization website.

Mr. Trump had big plans when he bought the property in 1996 — a golf course, a clubhouse and 15 private homes. But residents of surrounding towns thwarted his ambitions, arguing that development would draw too much traffic and risk polluting the drinking water.

Mr. Trump instead found a way to reap tax benefits from the estate. He took advantage of what is known as a conservation easement. In 2015, he signed a deal with a land conservancy, agreeing not to develop most of the property. In exchange, he claimed a $21.1 million charitable tax deduction.

Mr. Trump classified the Seven Springs estate as an investment property, not a personal residence, allowing for certain tax savings. Meanwhile, Eric Trump has called it a “home base,” and the Trump Organization website describes it as a “retreat for the Trump family.”
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The tax records reveal another way Seven Springs has generated substantial tax savings. In 2014, Mr. Trump classified the estate as an investment property, as distinct from a personal residence. Since then, he has written off $2.2 million in property taxes as a business expense — even as his 2017 tax law allowed individuals to write off only $10,000 in property taxes a year.

Courts have held that to treat residences as businesses for tax purposes, owners must show that they have “an actual and honest objective of making a profit,” typically by making substantial efforts to rent the property and eventually generating income.

Whether or not Seven Springs fits those criteria, the Trumps have described the property somewhat differently.

In 2014, Eric Trump told Forbes that “this is really our compound.” Growing up, he and his brother Donald Jr. spent many summers there, riding all-terrain vehicles and fishing on a nearby lake. At one point, the brothers took up residence in a carriage house on the property. “It was home base for us for a long, long time,” Eric told Forbes.

And the Trump Organization website still describes Seven Springs as a “retreat for the Trump family.”

Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not respond to a question about the Seven Springs write-off.

The Seven Springs conservation-easement deduction is one of four that Mr. Trump has claimed over the years. While his use of these deductions is widely known, his tax records show that they represent the lion’s share of his charitable giving — about $119.3 million of roughly $130 million in personal and corporate charitable contributions reported to the I.R.S.

The Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, another site where Mr. Trump has claimed a conservation-easement deduction.
Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Two of those deductions — at Seven Springs and at the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles — are the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general, who is examining whether the appraisals on the land, and therefore the tax deductions, were inflated.

Another common deductible expense for all businesses is legal fees. The I.R.S. requires that these fees be “directly related to operating your business,” and businesses cannot deduct “legal fees paid to defend charges that arise from participation in a political campaign.”

Yet the tax records show that the Trump Corporation wrote off as business expenses fees paid to a criminal defense lawyer, Alan S. Futerfas, who was hired to represent Donald Trump Jr. during the Russia inquiry. Investigators were examining Donald Jr.’s role in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who had promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. When he testified before Congress in 2017, Mr. Futerfas was by his side.

Mr. Futerfas was also hired to defend the president’s embattled charitable foundation, which would be shut down in 2018 after New York regulators said it had engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality.”

The Trump Corporation paid Mr. Futerfas at least $1.9 million in 2017 and 2018, tax records show. Also written off was at least $259,684 paid to Williams & Jensen, another law firm brought in during the same period to represent Donald Trump Jr.

Deals in countries led by strongmen, tenants who have business before the federal government, and hotels and clubs that draw those seeking access or favor.

In May, the chairman of a trade group representing Turkish business interests wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging support for increased trade between the United States and Turkey. The ultimate goal was nothing less than “reorienting the U.S. supply chain away from China.”

The letter was among three sent to cabinet secretaries by Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, who noted that he had copied each one to Mr. Trump.

The president needed no introduction to Mr. Yalcindag: The Turkish businessman helped negotiate a licensing deal in 2008 for his family’s company to develop two Trump towers in Istanbul. The tax records show the deal has earned Mr. Trump at least $13 million — far more than previously known — including more than $1 million since he entered the White House, even as his onetime associate now lobbies on behalf of Turkish interests.

Mr. Yalcindag said he had “remained friendly” with Mr. Trump since their work together years ago, but that all communications between his trade group and the administration “go through formal channels and are properly disclosed.”

Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, pictured with the Trumps in 2012, helped negotiate a licensing deal in Istanbul that brought Mr. Trump at least $13 million. He now lobbies on behalf of Turkish business interests.
Trump Organization, via PR Newswire

The ethical quandaries created by Mr. Trump’s decision to keep his business while in the White House have been documented. But the full financial measure of his extraordinary confluence of interests — a president with a wealth of business entanglements at home and in myriad geopolitical hot spots — has remained elusive.

The tax records for Mr. Trump and his hundreds of companies show precisely how much money he has received over the years, and how heavily he has come to rely on leveraging his brand in ways that pose potential or direct conflicts of interest while he is president. The records also provide the first reliable window onto his finances before 2014, the earliest year covered by his required annual disclosures, showing that his total profits from some projects outside the United States were larger than indicated by those limited public filings.

Based on the financial disclosures, which report much of his income in broad ranges, Mr. Trump’s earnings from the Istanbul towers could have been as low as $3.2 million. In the Philippines, where he licensed his name to a Manila tower nearly a decade ago, the low end of the range was $4.1 million — less than half of the $9.3 million he actually made. In Azerbaijan, he collected more than $5 million for the failed hotel project, about twice what appeared on his public filings.

It did not take long for conflicts to emerge when Mr. Trump ran for president and won. The Philippines’ strongman leader, Rodrigo Duterte, chose as a special trade envoy to Washington the businessman behind the Trump tower in Manila. In Argentina, a key person who had been involved in a Uruguayan licensing deal that earned Mr. Trump $2.3 million was appointed to a cabinet post.

The president’s conflicts have been most evident with Turkey, where the business community and the authoritarian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have not hesitated to leverage various Trump enterprises to their advantage. When Turkish-American relations were at a low point, a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel; six months later, when the two countries were on better terms, the rescheduled event was attended by Turkish government officials. Turkish Airlines also chose the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia to host an event.

More broadly, the tax records suggest other ways in which Mr. Trump’s presidency has propped up his sagging bottom line. Monthly credit card receipts, reported to the I.R.S. by third-party card processing firms, reflect the way certain of his resorts, golf courses and hotels became favored stomping grounds, if not venues for influence-trading, beginning in 2015 and continuing into his time in the White House.

The credit card data does not reflect total revenue, and is useful mainly for showing short-term ups and downs of consumer interest in a business. While two of Mr. Trump’s marquee draws — the Washington hotel in the Old Post Office and the Doral golf resort — are loaded with debt and continue to lose money, both have seen credit card transactions rise markedly with his political ascent.

Though the Trump International Hotel in Washington is loaded with debt and losing money, its credit card transactions have risen with Mr. Trump’s political ascent.
Al Drago for The New York Times

At the hotel, the monthly receipts grew from $3.7 million in December 2016 shortly after it opened, to $5.4 million in January 2017 and $6 million by May 2018. At Doral, after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, credit card revenue more than doubled, to $13 million, for the three months through August, compared with the same period the year before.

One Trump enterprise that has been regularly profitable, and is a persistent source of concern about ethical conflicts and national security lapses, is the Mar-a-Lago club. Profits there rose sharply after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, as courtiers eagerly joining up brought a tenfold rise in cash from initiation fees — from $664,000 in 2014 to just under $6 million in 2016, even before Mr. Trump doubled the cost of initiation in January 2017. The membership rush allowed the president to take $26 million out of the business from 2015 through 2018, nearly triple the rate at which he had paid himself in the prior two years.

Some of the largest payments from business groups for events or conferences at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties have come since Mr. Trump became president, the tax records show.

At Doral, Mr. Trump collected a total of at least $7 million in 2015 and 2016 from Bank of America, and at least $1.2 million in 2017 and 2018 from a trade association representing food retailers and wholesalers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce paid Doral at least $406,599 in 2018.

Beyond one-time payments for events or memberships, large corporations also pay rent for space in the few commercial buildings Mr. Trump actually owns. Walgreens, the pharmacy giant that resolved an antitrust matter before federal regulators in 2017, pays $3.4 million a year for a lease at 40 Wall Street, a Trump-owned office building in Manhattan.

Another renter at 40 Wall, for $2.5 million a year, is Atane Engineers, which changed its name in 2018 after a corruption scandal that culminated in two former top executives’ pleading guilty to paying bribes for city infrastructure contracts. Despite the criminal case — which landed the company on New York State’s list of “non-responsible entities” that require a waiver to obtain state contracts — the newly christened Atane registered as an eligible federal contractor with no restrictions listed in its file.

Rental income over all at 40 Wall has risen markedly, from $30.5 million in 2014 to $43.2 million in 2018. The tax records show that the cost of existing leases there has risen, and at least four law firms appear to have moved in since Mr. Trump ran for president.

Mr. Trump has a 30 percent stake in two valuable office towers, including one in Midtown Manhattan, shared with and managed by Vornado Realty Trust.
Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The other tower, in San Francisco, co-owned with Vornado, whose C.E.O. is a Trump ally and whose tenants include firms that lobby the federal government.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

In addition to buildings he owns outright, there is the president’s stake in the Vornado partnerships that control two valuable office towers — 1290 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and 555 California Street in San Francisco. Vornado’s chief executive, Steven Roth, is a close Trump ally recently named to the White House economic recovery council. Last year, the president appointed Mr. Roth’s wife, Daryl Roth, to the Kennedy Center board of trustees.

Vornado tenants include a roster of blue-chip firms paying multimillion-dollar leases, many of whom regularly do business with, lobby or are regulated by the federal government. Among the dozens of leases paid in 2018 to Mr. Trump’s Vornado partnerships, according to his tax records, were $5.8 million from Goldman Sachs; $3.1 million from Microsoft; $32.7 million from Neuberger Berman, an investment management company; and $8.8 million from the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

Threats are converging: mounting business losses, the looming I.R.S. audit and personally guaranteed debts coming due.

When Mr. Trump glided down a gilded Trump Tower escalator to kick off his presidential campaign in June 2015, his finances needed a jolt.

His core businesses were reporting mounting losses — more than $100 million over the previous two years. The river of celebrity-driven income that had long buoyed them was running dry.

If Mr. Trump hoped his unlikely candidacy might, at least, revitalize his brand, his barrage of derogatory remarks about immigrants quickly cost him two of his biggest and easiest sources of cash — licensing deals with clothing and mattress manufacturers that had netted him more than $30 million. NBC, his partner in Miss Universe — source of nearly $20 million in profits — announced that it would no longer broadcast the pageant; he sold it soon after.

Now his tax records make clear that he is facing a battery of threats to his business and his own financial well-being.

Over the past decade, he appears to have filled the cash-flow gaps with a series of one-shots that may not be available again.

In 2012, he took out a $100 million mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He took nearly the entire amount as a payout, his tax records show. His company has paid more than $15 million in interest on the loan, but nothing on the principal. The full $100 million comes due in 2022.

In 2013, he withdrew $95.8 million from his Vornado partnership account.

And in January 2014, he sold $98 million in stocks and bonds, his biggest single month of sales in at least the last two decades. He sold $54 million more in stocks and bonds in 2015, and $68.2 million in 2016. His financial disclosure released in July showed that he had as little as $873,000 in securities left to sell.

Mr. Trump’s businesses reported cash on hand of $34.7 million in 2018, down 40 percent from five years earlier.

What’s more, the tax records show that Mr. Trump has once again done what he says he regrets, looking back on his early 1990s meltdown: personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, a decision that led his lenders to threaten to force him into personal bankruptcy.

This time around, he is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it 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.

There is, however, a tax benefit for Mr. Trump. While business owners can use losses to avoid taxes, they can do so only up to the amount invested in the business. But by taking personal responsibility for that $421 million in debt, Mr. Trump would be able to declare that amount in losses in future years.

The balances on those loans had not been paid down by the end of 2018. And the businesses carrying the bulk of the debt — the Doral golf resort ($125 million) and the Washington hotel ($160 million) — are struggling, which could make it difficult to find a lender willing to refinance it.

The unresolved audit of his $72.9 million tax refund hangs over his head.

The broader economy promises little relief. Across the country, brick-and-mortar stores are in decline, and they have been very important to Trump Tower, which has in turn been very important to Mr. Trump. Nike, which rented the space for its flagship store in a building attached to Trump Tower and had paid $195.1 million in rent since the 1990s, left in 2018.

The president’s most recent financial disclosure reported modest gains in 2019. But that was before the pandemic hit. His already struggling properties were shut down for several months earlier this year. The Doral resort asked Deutsche Bank to allow a delay on its loan payments. Analysts have predicted that the hotel business will not fully recover until late 2023.

The President’s Taxes

Mr. Trump still has assets to sell. But doing so could take its own toll, both financial and to Mr. Trump’s desire to always be seen as a winner. The Trump family said last year that it was considering selling the Washington hotel, but not because it was losing money.

In Mr. Trump’s telling, any difficulty in his finances has been caused by the sacrifices made for his current job.

“They say, ‘Trump is getting rich off our nation,’” he said at a rally in Minneapolis last October. “I lose billions being president, and I don’t care. It’s nice to be rich, I guess, but I lose billions.”

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As they rally behind Trump’s pick, GOP senators struggle to explain refusal to move on Obama’s nominee – CNN

(CNN)Sen. Cory Gardner was blunt in 2016 about why he thought a Supreme Court seat should stay vacant despite then-President Barack Obama’s demand to fill it.

“The next election is too soon, and the stakes too high,” Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, said in March of that year.
Asked on Wednesday about his 2016 comments, amid President Donald Trump’s effort to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat less than two months before an election, Gardner didn’t answer when approached by CNN.
“If you didn’t see my statement, I’ll send it to you,” Gardner, battling to keep his seat for a second term, said as he got on a senators-only elevator.
That statement, however, said nothing about his past position, instead noting that if a qualified nominee he supports comes forward now: “I will vote to confirm.”
As Senate Republicans and the White House race to fill a Supreme Court seat following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many have struggled to reconcile their support for confirming Trump’s nomination on the eve of an election with their steadfast opposition to even considering the nomination made by a Democratic President eight months prior to Election Day. Party leaders are pointing to the different partisan makeup in Washington, arguing it’s normal to confirm a nominee when the same party controls both the Senate and the White House and not the norm in an election year with divided government like in 2016.
But four years ago, that was not the message pushed by much of the Republican Party as they stressed repeatedly — for months — that it should be the voters who get a say in effectively choosing the next Supreme Court nominee, defending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to move on the vacancy, which was later filled by Trump’s pick of Neil Gorsuch in 2017.
“In the midst of a critical election, the American people deserve to have a say in this important decision that will impact the course of our country for years to come,” Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said in March 2016. “This is not about any particular nominee; rather this is about giving the American people a voice.”
On Wednesday, Ernst refused to answer a question about whether voters should have a voice now over the Ginsburg seat, walking in silence as a reporter asked her three times about her 2016 statement as she was departing the Capitol.
Others like Ernst who are also in difficult reelection races are reluctant to engage when asked to reconcile their past position with their support for Trump’s move now.
“I got people waiting for me,” said Georgia Sen. David Perdue, not responding to questions for the third time this week about his 2016 statement that not holding hearings on Obama nominee Merrick Garland “is a wise course of action in the midst of a presidential election.”
The reason for the refusal to engage is clear: Republicans believe that they need to act on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally shift the balance of the court — no matter what they said in the past — and they are confident that the Supreme Court fight will energize their voters in the midst of a closely contested election for control of the Senate where the GOP holds a 53-47 majority.
Indeed, while a new CNN poll shows a clear majority of 59% of voters nationally say the winner of the presidential race should choose the next nominee, 83% of Republican voters believe that Trump should select the next Supreme Court justice before the election. And in Republican-leaning states where GOP senators are clinging to their seats, they are betting that a Supreme Court fight now will rally their base and remind conservative-leaning voters why they want a GOP Senate majority — irrespective of their past positions.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from a state that Trump won by more than 20 points in 2016, is locked in a tight race with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock — and is making clear he’s fully behind Trump’s nominee, who is scheduled to be named Saturday evening.
But in 2016, Daines said: “The American people have already begun voting on who the next President will be and their voice should continue to be reflected in a process that will have lasting implications on our nation.”
Asked about that past statement on Wednesday, Daines said that the President has “a responsibility under the Constitution to nominate a justice — the Senate can either confirm or reject the nominee.” Daines said in 2016 Republicans rejected a “liberal justice” and now when Trump makes his pick, “I will stand in support of that conservative.”
“There’s a very clear difference right now in terms of what kind of justice should be on the Supreme Court,” Daines said. “I support conservatives, my opponent supports liberals.”
When asked why the voters shouldn’t have a say, Daines responded: “They had a choice: They elected President Trump and a Republican Senate.”
Sen. Thom Tillis, in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, said Trump is “not a lame-duck” president like Obama was.
But in 2016 comment, Tillis said: “This is about the principle, not the person,” and that the American people should have a “voice” to determine the direction of the court. Asked about statement, Tillis said Wednesday: “We knew that President Obama was on his way out the door. We were months away from an election. But at the end of the day, we support moving forward with the process” now.

Democrats argued for confirmation vote in election year four years ago

It’s not just Republicans forced to reconcile their past positions. Democrats, too, spent months in 2016 demanding the seat be filled, warning about the dangers of having just eight seats on the Supreme Court.
“Every day that goes by without a ninth justice is another day the American people’s business is not getting done,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said four years ago.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who four years ago made urgent appeals for an up-or-down vote on Obama’s nominee, said the two circumstances are totally different.
“You cannot have one seat of rules for a Democratic President and another set of rules for Republicans,” she said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, another member of the committee, also repeatedly lambasted Republicans for refusing to hold a confirmation vote in the 2016 election year.
Asked to reconcile the two positions, Blumenthal said: “We argued nine months before the election a seat should be filled rather than waiting, in effect, a full year. The (confirmation) vote will occur within days, less than a week probably of the election. Literally, people are going to the ballot. They are voting right now in seven states. The circumstances are just totally different.”
Democrats argue that never in history has a Supreme Court justice been confirmed after July in an election year, a point that Schumer made on the Senate floor Wednesday.
In an exchange with the presiding officer — GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, herself in a tough fight to keep her Georgia seat — Schumer asked if there was precedent for confirming a nominee between July and November in a presidential election year.
“Materials from the secretary of the Senate do not show such precedent,” Loeffler said.
Republicans argue that the fine points over which parties are controlling the White House and Senate at the time of an election year vacancy are critical and validate their actions to block Garland in 2016 and move forward with a nominee now. They say that only 15 times in history has a Supreme Court vacancy occurred in an election year and the President has nominated a candidate. Of those 15, seven occurred when the Senate was controlled by the opposite party. Only two of those nominees were confirmed, the last in 1888.
And for the eight times that the White House and Senate were of the same party, nominees were confirmed seven times. The lone person who was not confirmed, Abe Fortas for chief justice in the late 1960s, faced corruption charges and his nomination was withdrawn.
“Apart from that one strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us now,” McConnell said Monday. “The historical precedent is overwhelming and it runs in one direction. If our Democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history.”

GOP’s 2016 message

But even as McConnell has pointed out in 2016 that he raised how one-party rule is different than divided government, even the GOP leader himself was emphasizing four years ago how it was up to the voters to decide the direction of the court that November.
“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country,” McConnell said on the floor in March 2016. “So, of course, of course, the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran for President in 2016, told reporters in the Capitol shortly after he dropped out that year, that he opposed Garland and added: “I don’t think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this President’s term. I would say that if it was a Republican president.”
Asked about that past statement, Rubio told CNN this week: “Here’s the bottom line: if the President nominates someone as he is allowed to do, and they put someone up that I support, I’m not going to vote against the judges I support. It’s as simple as that.”
“No, I am not,” Rubio said when asked if he was contradicting his past position. The senator pointed to remarks he made that year on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where he said a president should not nominate someone in their last year “especially in their second term,” though he didn’t mention the second term in his interaction with reporters in the Capitol.
Some Republicans have different reasons for reversing their stances, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, who vowed in 2016 and 2018 not to move ahead with a nominee in 2020. But Graham, locked in a tough reelection battle in South Carolina, said that his views changed in the aftermath of the vicious Supreme Court fight that led to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and facing reelection in Texas, said in 2016 that it was “an important principle” to give voters a say in driving the direction of the court.
“This is really about an important principle,” Cornyn said in March 2016. “It’s important to allow the voters, in choosing the next President of the United States, make that decision and make sure their voice is heard rather than just 100 members of the Senate.”
But asked this week about that position, Cornyn said he took that view “because President Obama was term limited out.”
Some more recently have voiced paused about filling a vacancy.
The chairman of the committee at the time, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, told CNN in late July of this year that he didn’t think the Senate should move on any vacancy that could occur. “My position is if I were chairman of the committee, I couldn’t move forward with it.”
But earlier this week, days after the death of Ginsburg, Grassley sided with his party’s decision to press ahead with a nominee now.
Asked what changed between now and July, Grassley told CNN on Wednesday that he’s not the chairman of the committee and said he was being consistent.
“If Graham goes ahead with a hearing, he can expect me to be there, and I have a responsibility to be there.”
Asked about voting no based on principle, given his past concerns about pressing ahead this year, Grassley said: “I’m going to vote on the qualifications of the nominee.”

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Trump’s WeChat ban endangers US businesses in China – Fox Business

With time running out for Bytedance Inc. to sell social media app TikTok’s U.S operations or have them shut down, American firms operating in China are focusing on a potentially far more devastating ban targeting mobile-payment app WeChat.

“Think of the U.S. society if you suddenly eliminated credit cards,” said Viktor Shvets, managing director at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong.

Mobile payments have become engrained in Chinese society, where credit cards never really caught on. An estimated 83% of all payments in China in 2018 were made via mobile phone apps. About 92% of the business is split between WeChat, owned by Tecent Holdings, and Alibaba’s Alipay.

Over a dozen U.S. companies, including Apple Inc., Walmart Inc. and Walt Disney Co., last month held a call with the Trump administration to express their concerns about a vague executive order that bans transactions with Tencent and is set to take effect on Sept. 20 — which is also the deadline ByteDance must meet to secure a U.S. TikTok sale before the Trump administration shuts it down.

The Commerce Department did not respond to FOX Business’ request for more information.

TIKTOK, US DISCUSS WAYS TO AVOID SALE

Trump is concerned that both apps capture large swaths of data from users and allow the Chinese Communist Party to compile personal and proprietary information on Americans.

For any companies operating in the country, however, mobile payment apps are their lifeblood.

A U.S. ban on WeChat “would be simply devastating,” Ker Gibbs, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, told FOX Business. “It’s hard to see how some of these American companies could survive in this market without being able to use WeChat payments.”

The immediate impact would be lost sales for companies like Nike as customers who couldn’t use their preferred payment method would respond by taking their business to rivals such as Adidas, based in Germany.

But there is also the possibility that a ban from the Trump administration would cause companies domiciled outside the U.S. whose applications ride on the WeChat system to stop using the app in fear of secondary sanctions.

WeChat, which allows Chinese citizens outside the country to stay in touch with friends and family back home, can also be used for services as varied as hailing cabs and taking out mortgages.

TRUMP EYES ‘DECOUPLING’ FROM CHINA

Such considerations are why the Trump administration could end up providing some exclusions, hoping to thread the needle between national security and commercial reality.

Apps like WeChat, which had 1.17 billion monthly active users at the end of 2019, the vast majority of which were in China, are the reason why the country sees approximately 20 times the number of mobile transactions as the U.S., giving it access to more data and a leg up in artificial intelligence research.

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“If China is accumulating a lot more data without the same privacy restrictions that apply to the West, then theoretically, they can pursue artificial intelligence much more aggressively than other Western countries,” Shvets said. “So it doesn’t just have surveillance applications. It also has privacy implications.”

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Four charts: Trump’s and Biden’s advertising strategy in battleground states – CNN

(CNN)If you live in Pennsylvania and have felt like you’re seeing way too many campaign commercials for this time of year, it’s not just you.

According to data from Kantar Media, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have spent more money on ads in Pennsylvania than any other state, followed by Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona — all battleground states.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a presidential campaign would spend more on ads in places with more persuadable voters, particularly Pennsylvania and Florida.
“Florida and Pennsylvania are two of the biggest prizes for either candidate and probably must-wins for both Trump and Biden,” said Nathan Gonzales, the editor of the nonpartisan “Inside Elections” and a CNN contributor. “It’s hard to replace 29 or 20 electoral votes with another state.”
But in an election year where states not traditionally in the spotlight are now up for grabs, such as Arizona, Minnesota and Georgia, both campaigns have a bewildering number of options on where to allocate their advertising budgets.
Campaign ad spending is a constant game of one-upmanship — the Trump campaign and affiliated political action committees have already made significant investments in advertising for September — but as of the end of August, Trump and Biden each have an advertising edge in five of the the 10 biggest battleground states. Biden and affiliated outside groups have spent more than twice as much in Michigan, for instance, while Trump has outspent his Democratic rival in Georgia many times over.
One thing these 10 battleground states have in common: Trump won all but one of them in 2016.
“That’s a good example of how the race favors Biden right now,” Gonzales said. “President Trump is playing defense almost everywhere and it’s difficult for him to recreate his 2016 victory.”
This year’s playing field is hard to recognize compared to 2016, when Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton spent about $52,000 on ads in Georgia combined. This year, Trump has spent about $9.4 million so far while Biden has spent about $926,000.
In 2016, neither Trump nor Clinton bothered to pay for ads in Minnesota. So far this year, Trump has spent $2.5 million and Biden has spent $795,000.
And in the wake of Clinton’s loss of the “Rust Belt” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Biden’s ad wallet for these three states is open a lot wider this time. So far, Biden has spent $44 million in Pennsylvania, $27 million in Michigan and $26.1 million in Wisconsin.
On CNN’s Road to 270 interactive map, Biden would be able to secure an Electoral College victory with the states Clinton won in 2016, plus Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those three states also have a history of voting for a Democrat for president, adds Gonzales.
Another difference from 2016 is that Democrats are spending considerably less on ads in Ohio.
“Ohio swung so heavily toward Trump in 2016 that Democrats aren’t banking on it coming back to them this year,” Gonzales said. “But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.”
Looking at the rest of the country, Trump has outspent his rival in national ads, red states and even blue states. Aside from the battlegrounds, in the states that voted for Trump in 2016, Biden and his affiliated PACs have been considerably less aggressive, spending $5.1 million compared to Trump’s $18.7 million.
But that’s not necessarily because the Biden campaign thinks they can’t compete in Trumpland. Most of that spending went into digital ads, which are less expensive than TV and radio commercials.
Trump and Biden spent more than $228 million combined on digital ads on Facebook and Google as of August 31 — only about $1 million behind their local broadcast TV spending and more than four times what they have spent on local cable ads.
While television and radio spending are primarily used for persuading voters, digital ads are often used to appeal to base supporters for donations and build lists of voters (think of those Facebook ads asking you to “Add your name”).
“When it comes to online advertising for a national campaign, the targeting is less revealing than the ads themselves,” said Eric Wilson, a political technologist who led the digital team for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.
In a non-competitive state, online ads typically emphasize email list building and fundraising, Wilson said. For example, solidly blue California has wealthy donors on both sides and ranks among the top 10 states with the most ad spending overall. In more competitive states, there’s more focus on identifying and turning out voters and volunteers.
Although it’s a different type of campaigning, it’s noteworthy that the $152.9 million Trump and his affiliated PACs have spent on digital ads is more than twice as much as Biden’s digital ad buys.
“I’ve been surprised at how little the Biden campaign is investing in online advertising,” Wilson said. And as a sitting president, Wilson added, Trump also dominates TV news coverage, which means he doesn’t have to pay for the increased exposure of TV ads like Biden.
Trump’s online ad advantage may also have something to do with his target audience.
“(Trump’s) supporters are on Facebook, the demographics of people on Facebook are well suited to their target audience, and the affordances of Facebook all lends itself well to their strategic use of the platform,” said Kathleen Searles, an associate professor of political communication at Louisiana State University. “I also think that Facebook ads generally get less scrutiny, and are not subject to the same set of regulations or norms as TV ads, so that may be part of their strategy as well.”
Most of the ad spending in the 10 battleground states has been directed towards television and radio. In Pennsylvania and Florida, the gap between Biden’s and Trump’s broadcast and digital ad spending is dramatic. In Pennsylvania, Trump spent $29.6 million on TV/radio and $3.6 million on digital. Biden spent $39.1 million on TV/radio and $4.9 million on digital
And in Florida, Trump spent $26.5 million on TV/radio and $7 million on digital. Biden spent $34.6 million on TV/radio and $7.4 million on digital.
It would make sense to spend the most on persuadable TV ads in the states with the most persuadable voters. That TV and radio ads are more expensive may be precisely the point of breaking the bank in states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
“Campaigns tend to take an arms-race approach to advertising,” Searles said. Psychologically speaking, some campaigns believe a big number in a must-win state projects strength.
That doesn’t always work out in practice. Clinton spent $64 million on ads in Florida in 2016 — more than twice as much as Trump — and the Sunshine State still went red.

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Fact Check: Trump’s And Biden’s Records On Criminal Justice – NPR

Then-Sen. Joe Biden (right) speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference in 1994 after the Senate voted on a major crime bill.

John Duricka/AP


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Then-Sen. Joe Biden (right) speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference in 1994 after the Senate voted on a major crime bill.

John Duricka/AP

For four nights, speakers at the Republican National Convention pilloried Democrat Joe Biden over his alleged weakness on crime and painted a dystopian future if he were to be elected in November.

Biden and Democrats were “completely silent about the rioters and criminals spreading mayhem in Democrat-run cities,” during their convention, President Trump charged on Thursday. The previous evening, Vice President Pence warned, “The hard truth is you will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

The speeches came as residents of Kenosha, Wis., were reeling from the shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, and the resulting protests — during which two people were fatally shot. The unrest follows turmoil in other cities after police killed George Floyd, also a Black man, in Minneapolis in May.

7 Takeaways From The Republican National Convention

Fact Check: Trump's Address To The Republican Convention, Annotated

Pence claimed that Biden would “double down in the very policies that are leading to violence in American cites,” to which Biden responded with a reminder that “right now … we’re in Donald Trump’s America.”

The current crime rate

Statistics show that some crime has been increasing in big cities, with mayors who are Democrats and Republicans. According to figures compiled by data analyst and consultant Jeff Asher, the murder rate this year has increased by 26% through July, compared with a year ago. Other violent crimes are up slightly, while property crimes are down by 7.7%.

YTD change in murder, violent crime and property crime for 25 American cities with data publicly available through July.

Murder remains up big (+26%) while violent crime is roughly even and property crime remains solidly down relative to each city’s YTD 2019 total. pic.twitter.com/yh8xhAwWFC

— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) August 24, 2020

This is a reversal of longer-term trends, in which violent crimes have been generally declining since the 1990s.

In an email, Asher says determining the cause for the increase this year is complicated.

“We barely have the data to recognize that a new trend is occurring, much less to be able to properly evaluate and diagnose its cause,” he says. But the “intense stresses being placed on numerous aspects of society by the pandemic is as persuasive as any.”

Crime Has Declined Overall During The Pandemic, But Shootings And Killings Are Up

How Trump's 'Law And Order' Message Has Shifted As He Seeks A 2nd Term

Trump’s record

The Trump administration announced this summer that it was sending federal resources to cities, including additional FBI agents, along with U.S. marshals and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to — in the Justice Department’s words — “fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

But Trump — who promised in his 2016 acceptance speech that “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end” — has a spotty record when it comes to criminal justice reform.

His signature achievement on the issue, the widely touted First Step Act, signed in 2018 and passed with bipartisan support in Congress, instituted sentencing reforms, including reducing harsh penalties for crack cocaine possession. And on Friday, Trump pardoned Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate who delivered a powerful address at the Republican National Convention this week and whose cause had been espoused by Kim Kardashian West. But some parts of the law have fallen short, activists say.

President Trump speaks about the First Step Act prison reform bill at the White House in 2018.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images


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President Trump speaks about the First Step Act prison reform bill at the White House in 2018.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In June, following the unrest after Floyd’s killing, Trump signed an executive order that would provide federal grants to improve police training and create a national database of police misconduct complaints. But it fell well short of what activists say is needed.

Congress was unable to reconcile police reform proposals earlier this summer.

Biden’s record

As Republicans were fond of noting during their convention, Biden has a 47-year record as a U.S. senator and then vice president. During much of his Senate career, he was a member of and chairman of the Judiciary Committee and in 1994 sponsored the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

It came in a different era, as Democrats set out to prove that they, too, were “tough on crime.” The bill included a 10-year ban on assault-style weapons as well as the Violence Against Women Act, which Biden points to today as a signal of his commitment to ending domestic violence.

Joe Biden Has Come A Long Way On Criminal Justice Reform. Progressives Want More

But the act also included harsh penalties for drug-related crimes and money to construct new prisons, which critics said led to the mass incarceration of Black men. It also included funding to hire 100,000 additional police officers.

Now, Biden has backed away from some of the provisions in that bill, while at the same time rejecting calls by some in his party to defund police departments.

He has proposed a ban on police chokeholds, a new federal police oversight commission, new national standards for when and how police use force, more mandatory data collection from local law enforcement and other steps.

Former prosecutor Kamala Harris

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, brings her own record on criminal justice issues to the Democratic ticket. She was San Francisco’s district attorney and then California’s attorney general before her election to the Senate.

As district attorney, she initiated a policy for first-time drug offenders to get a high school diploma and a job instead of prison.

As attorney general, she refused to seek the death penalty for a man who killed a police officer. She also instituted a controversial policy that threatened to prosecute parents of children who skipped school as a way to reduce truancy.

Thousands Gather For March On Washington To Demand Police Reform And Racial Equality

She told NPR’s Morning Edition in March, when she was still running for president in the Democratic primary, that “nobody went to jail, and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families went through our program, which was a program of getting greater resources to them so the child could be in school every day.”

In the Senate, she co-sponsored with Republican Sen. Rand Paul a bail reform measure as a way of reducing the number of people held, arguing in a 2017 New York Times op-ed that “excessive bail disproportionately harms people from low-income communities and communities of color.”

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Trump’s $300 in extra unemployment aid: More than half of states approved – CBS News

More Americans are going hungry


More Americans are going hungry

07:21

More than half of U.S. states have been approved for President Donald Trump’s extra $300 in weekly jobless benefits. The aid is geared toward helping the 28.2 million workers who are currently collecting their states’ regular unemployment benefits, which typically replaces only a fraction of a worker’s regular income. 

The latest state to receive approval was Connecticut, which received the green light from FEMA on Monday. Another 29 states have also been given the nod from the federal agency. The aid is funded by $44 billion in funds allocated for natural disaster relief.

Even so, it’s unclear how many states are currently disbursing the extra benefits, with FEMA officials last week saying that only one state so far — Arizona — had actually begun payment of the extra $300 per week. Federal officials have said the time required to get the money into the hands of jobless workers would “vary wildly,” with some states needing as many as six weeks to disburse the funds after receiving approval from FEMA. 

About one-fifth of the U.S. workforce is currently receiving unemployment aid, according to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. But many of them are struggling after the loss of $600 in extra weekly unemployment aid at the end of July, which has pushed millions of jobless workers off an income cliff. 

With Congress deadlocked on another stimulus bill, Mr. Trump signed an order on August 8 to provide the extra $300 in benefits to jobless workers. But Mr. Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) executive action doesn’t go far enough, Stettner said. 

“Our analysis shows that LWA would cut the average value of per-person regular unemployment benefits from $908 to $608, a 33% loss,” he said in a statement. 

That states that have been approved for the extra aid are: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

South Dakota is the only state that so far has declined the extra aid.

Expiration date

Mr. Trump’s extra aid also has an expiration date, with FEMA noting that it’s authorized an initial three weeks of payments. An additional week or two of funding could be available beyond that, but that depends on how much money states use and whether there are other demands on the $44 billion in disaster relief funds. For instance, some of those funds may be needed to provide aid to regions suffering from storm or hurricane damage. 

There are already signs that the loss of extra jobless aid is affecting consumers’ spending and attitudes. Consumer confidence fell to 84.8 in August, below the consensus estimate of 93, according to the Conference Board on Tuesday.

“We suspect that the still-widespread incidence of COVID-19 infections is undermining confidence, and the expiration of federal unemployment benefits is also dampening spirits,” noted Oxford Economics chief U.S. financial economist Kathy Bostjancic in a Tuesday report. “Households are becoming more cautious in their outlook for continued healing of the economy.”

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Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry says president “has no principles” in secretly recorded audio – CBS News

In secretly recorded audio, Maryanne Trump Barry, the eldest sister of President Trump, criticized her brother for his lack of principles, his lying and said, “you can’t trust him.” The audio, first reported by the Washington Post and obtained in part by CBS News was recorded between 2018 and 2019 by Mr. Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, who recently published a tell-all book about the president.

In one recording, which has not been independently verified by CBS News, Barry criticizes Mr. Trump’s immigration policies and his “lack of preparation” and “lying.” Barry also recalls learning that Mr. Trump suggested sending her to the U.S.-Mexico border to support his administration’s policies.

In the recording, she decries “what they’re doing with kids at the border,” and recalls telling a relative, “Well, I guess he hasn’t read my immigration opinions.” When asked by Mary what Mr. Trump has read, Barry replies, “No. He doesn’t read.”

In a number of recordings, Barry is heard complaining about Mr. Trump’s character. “Donald is out for Donald, period,” she said in one exchange. “All he wants to do is appeal to his base,” Barry said in another recording. “He has no principles. None. None.”

US property tycoon Donald Trump (L) is p
President Donald Trump is pictured with his sister Maryanne Trump Barry in 2008.

AFP


“I mean, he goes to a September 11 memorial and he sees a crowd and he fist pumps,” she complains in yet another recording. In that same recording, Barry is heard complaining about Mr. Trump’s Twitter account.

“I said, ‘get rid of Twitter. Stop this,'” she recalled saying to the president.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, responded to the tapes on “Fox News Sunday,” saying: “Another day, another political attack. What I find interesting is any family member that would secretly tape 15 hours of a conversation with somebody obviously to promote an agenda — she’s been very vocal in her support for Joe Biden.” 

In a statement released by the White House, Mr. Trump addressed the tapes and referenced the recent death of his brother Robert: “Every day it’s something else, who cares. I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before.”

In another recording, Barry is heard discussing her nomination to federal court by President Ronald Reagan. She gets heated recalling Mr. Trump suggesting he was the reason she was nominated for the position, prompting Mary to ask what Mr. Trump had ever accomplished on his own.

“I don’t know,” Barry responded.

“Nothing,” Mary said.

“Well he has five bankruptcies,” Barry replied.

“Good point. He did accomplish those all by himself,” Mary said.

“Yes, he did. Yes, he did,” Barry said. “You can’t trust him.”

Mr. Trump has never personally declared bankruptcy, but several of his businesses have filed for corporate bankruptcy.

Barry discusses her nomination by Reagan several times. She notes that Mr. Trump would often bring up how he called his attorney Roy Cohn, who was close with President Reagan, to help with her nomination to the federal court. Barry says she would have been nominated even without Mr. Trump’s intervention. In one recording, Barry says she once told Mr. Trump that if he ever brought it up again, “I will wipe you out.”

The Washington Post reports that, while discussing the situation with Cohn and her nomination, Barry stated, “It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”

Chris Bastardi, a spokesperson for Mary Trump, told CBS News in a statement the recordings were made because, “Mary realized members of her family had lied in prior depositions.”

“Anticipating litigation, she felt it prudent to tape conversations in order to protect herself,” the statement said. “She never expected to learn much of what she heard, including the president’s sister, Federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, state that Donald Trump had paid someone to take an SAT exam for him.”

The claim that Mr. Trump paid somebody else to take the SAT exam for him is found in Mary Trump’s recently published book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” though it’s not an assertion she attributed to Barry in the text. The book was published by Simon & Schuster, a ViacomCBS subsidiary.

Barry is heard discussing this in two separate recordings, although it is unclear if she had firsthand knowledge.

Barry said Mr. Trump was “a brat” and claimed she did his homework for him and “drove him around New York City to try to get him into college.”

“He went to Fordham for one year, and then he got into University of Pennsylvania,” Barry said. “I guess he had somebody take the exams … SATs or whatever. … That’s what I believe.”

Barry has not publicly criticized Mr. Trump. In one recording, however, she notes that at one point in their relationship, Mr. Trump “didn’t talk to me for two years.”

Stephen Sanchez contributed reporting.

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Trump’s demand that the US get a cut of TikTok’s sale could set a dangerous precedent – CNN

San Francisco (CNN Business)TikTok is up for grabs. But while the popular short-form video app likely won’t lack for suitors, President Donald Trump says the US government needs to get a “substantial amount of money” as part of any deal.

It’s a demand that experts say is far outside the norm at best, and if it were to be met could set a dangerous precedent.
“It’s really not for the President to say that a deal can go through or a deal can’t go through, or that a company must pay a ransom to the United States government or get a deal done by a particular deadline,” said Avery Gardiner, general counsel and senior fellow for competition, data and power at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “That’s very unusual, it’s more than very unusual. It’s wrong, it doesn’t happen.”
The US government’s authority to compel foreign firms to sell their business to an American company comes primarily from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS has stepped up its scrutiny of Chinese-owned firms in recent years as tensions between the United States and China on technology escalate — the committee recently forced the Chinese owners of Grindr to sell the gay dating app to a US-based company over national security concerns.
ByteDance, the Chinese tech firm that owns TikTok, is already under investigation by CFIUS over its 2016 acquisition of US app Musical.ly. And there is a scenario in which the committee could insert a fee to cover the government’s expenses from the review process, according to Jeffrey Bialos, a partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland who served as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs in the Clinton administration.
“The only argument I can see the government making is that they should be compensated for the time and effort they spent on this,” Bialos said. However, “to require that part of the consideration ByteDance is getting from selling its business go to the US government, I think that’s an overreach.”
Trump said he would seek a “very large percentage” of any deal, which could be a substantial amount given TikTok’s estimated valuation of $50 billion by some investors.
The TikTok saga could also scuttle potential future deals in a tech industry already under scrutiny.
“The recent events around TikTok will change the way we look at companies that are based in China or have interest in expanding to China, which is often one of the most interesting markets to expand into from the US,” said Mike Jones, co-founder and managing partner at Science Inc, a Los Angeles-based incubator and tech studio that’s backed companies such as Dollar Shave Club and Bird.
“The recent developments give us pause and change the way we think about company growth and development when the government could block them from crossing into markets,” Jones added.
Gardiner points to the growing pressure on tech companies that have any links to China, citing the Trump administration’s years-long campaign against Huawei as an example.
“That’s going to make American companies think twice about purchasing or being purchased by Chinese entities in the tech space,” she said. “I think that does have a chilling effect on the merger landscape.”
Ultimately, though, Bialos says if all the parties involved in the deal agree to cut the government in, there’s not much anyone can do about it. Microsoft, seen as the frontrunner so far to purchase TikTok, said it would be open to “providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”
“If they agree to that as one of the conditions, it’s hard for anyone to challenge it,” Bialos said. “I’m not sure anybody could oppose it readily if the party involved here agrees to it.” (Chinese state-run media this week slammed the US moves and said China will “by no means accept” the “theft” of TikTok.)
It’s a slippery slope with the potential to fundamentally change how business is done in the United States.
“I suppose it’s possible that any company could voluntarily write a check to the US Treasury, but making that a de facto requirement for mergers in the United States would be incredibly dangerous,” said Gardiner. “To condition deals on requiring a payment to the government would be a drastic change and, in my mind, it would be a terrible mistake.”
— Sara O’Brien contributed to this report.

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Fact-checking Trump’s continued assault on mail-in voting and suggestions of delaying the election – CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump went on a tear against mail-in voting Thursday morning. In a pair of tweets, he once again falsely claimed that mail-in voting was rife with fraud and an easy target for foreign election interference.

“Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster,” Trump tweeted. “The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race.”
More and more states are considering mail-in ballots as the coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of slowing down in the US before the November presidential election. After drawing a false distinction between absentee voting and mail-in voting, the President suggested delaying the election instead of relying on mail-in voting.
He tweeted: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Facts First: This is yet another egregious attempt by Trump to mislead the public by sowing doubts about mail-in-voting by making false claims about the potential of voter fraud and rigged elections.
No matter how many times the President claims otherwise, voting-by-mail rarely results in fraud. And although Trump has tried to spin the two as fundamentally different before, absentee and mail-in voting are essentially the same, both subject to several degrees of verification. As more Americans than ever are expected to cast mail-in ballots this year due to the pandemic, experts acknowledge there might be some logistical issues in terms of people being able to receive and mail in their ballots. But that’s a far cry from the claims of fraud and rigged elections that the President continues to espouse.

Absentee and mail-in voting

Trump often defends absentee voting — a practice he is more than familiar with — while lambasting mail-in voting. But the voting methods are very similar, and experts have told CNN they are largely “the same thing.”
“No-excuse mail voting or absentee voting — whatever you call it — is essentially the same thing,” David Becker, founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research told CNN’s Marshall Cohen. “You request a ballot, you get a ballot, you vote, you send it in, and there are protections in place. It doesn’t matter whether you call it mail voting or absentee voting. It’s the same thing.”
Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine professor and one of the nation’s top experts in election law, told CNN “The President seems to be trying to distinguish between mail in voting where someone has to have an excuse and no excuse voting by mail.”
While there can be some differences in the methods used to implement absentee and mail-in voting, experts say that they are both secure ways of voting.
“The bottom line is that absentee and mail balloting are secure in America,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told CNN. “Election officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, pretty much universally are confident in the system.”
You can read more here on how mail-in voting works.

Mail ballot fraud

Trump’s insistence that an increase in mail-in voting this November will result in massive fraud is unfounded.
While rare instances of voter fraud from mail-in ballots do occur, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US election system.
Mail ballot fraud is exceedingly rare in part because states have systems and processes in place to prevent forgery, theft and voter fraud. These systems would apply to both absentee ballots and mail-in ballots for in-state voters.
You can read more about the history of mail ballot fraud and Trump’s false claims about it here.

Foreign interference

Contrary to the President’s insinuation, nonpartisan election experts say it would be very difficult for foreign countries to influence the election using mail-in voting, which would require printing millions of fraudulent mail-in ballots.
Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, William Evanina, said in a statement Friday that it is “extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to broadly disrupt or change vote tallies without detection.”
Chris Krebs, the Trump administration’s own official in charge of securing elections has also said mail-in voting is not an easy way for foreign countries to get involved with US elections.
At a Brookings event in mid-July on “Election integrity and security in the era of COVID-19,” Krebs, who is director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, outlined the complexities involved in a foreign adversary attempting to counterfeit a mail-in ballot and the steps in place to verify each ballot’s authenticity.
During the same event, David Becker said the voting system is such that the situation Trump describes would be “virtually impossible.”
“There’s so many checks and balances in the system it’s virtually impossible, I’d never say impossible, it’s virtually impossible to change the outcome of an election in a way that would be undetected,” Becker said.

Changing election day

In his tweet, Trump suggested that the election be delayed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”
Who has the authority to change the date of a US presidential election? In one word, Congress.
The US Constitution only permits Congress to change the date of a presidential election. In order for Trump to have that power, Congress would have to pass a new statute giving it to him.
In a report from the Congressional Research Service from March 20 which looked at legal considerations for potentially postponing the federal elections this year, it notes that “[o]nly Congress may change this date by enacting a new statute.”
“The presidential election date has never been changed in response to an emergency,” the report continues.
The CRS also explains that “[u]nlike the practice of some states that allow the Governor to postpone an election during emergencies, neither the Constitution nor Congress provides any similar power to the President.”
So while Trump is welcome to advocate for a change-of-date, he’s powerless to actually do so. And with Democrats — who strongly support mail-in voting during the pandemic — controlling the House and many Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, already rejecting the President’s suggestion, it’s almost certain Trump won’t get his wish.

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Trump’s commutation of ally Roger Stone’s sentence sparks outrage – The Guardian

Outrage is growing among opponents of Donald Trumps decision to commute the prison sentence of his longtime friend and notorious Republican fixer Roger Stone despite the US attorney general having de…
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