Donald Trump Might Be the Worst Businessman in America

A lot of people were surprised that the New York Times’ bombshell about Trump’s finances didn’t garner more attention. But not only was it published when everyone was glued to the Kavanaugh story, most people aren’t well-versed enough in the intricacies of finance and potential tax fraud to get through a 14,000-word story on the subject. But here’s the one thing that no one should miss:

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

I’ve always thought that Trump doesn’t want anyone to see his tax returns because they could expose the fact that he’s not as wealthy as he claims to be. His ego can’t stand that kind of exposure. So we now know that, unlike the lie he tells about his father only giving him a $1 million loan, the president’s businesses were funded to the tune of at least $413 million from his father.

But the story doesn’t end there. In 2004 Donald Trump talked his siblings into selling off the remainder of their father’s holdings. His share was $177.3 million, which he used to shore up his own business ventures. That is the same year Trump went to work for NBC as the star of The Apprentice.

David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell pick up the story from there. At around the same time, they note that:

[Trump’s] Atlantic City casino company filed for bankruptcy in 2004, facing $1.8 billion in debt. A few years later, the financial crisis hurt the value of his newer holdings, such as the Chicago tower where he was trying to sell condos. Then Trump actually sued his own lender — the commercial-lending arm of Deutsche Bank — in an attempt to avoid a loan payment in 2008, according to legal documents.

That’s what makes this move so revealing:

In 2005, Donald Trump kicked off a decade-long buying and spending spree, vastly expanding his hotel and golf-course empire and cementing his image as a brash impresario.

The un­or­tho­dox approach Trump took in making those bold bets — racing through hundreds of millions in cash and drawing loans from the private-wealth office of Deutsche Bank — came when he was on new terrain as a developer.

Trump was clearly in deep financial trouble: he sold off his father’s assets to pay creditors, filed for bankruptcy, sued his banker to avoid a loan payment, and took a job hosting a reality TV show.  And yet, at the about the same time, he went on a $400 million spending spree with cash. On top of that, he got more than $300 million in loans from Deutsche Bank. Keep in mind that in 2017, Deutsche Bank reached a $630 million settlement with American and British regulators for turning a blind eye to money laundering from Russian investors.

Of course, that raises the question of where the $400 million in cash came from. I’m pretty sure Robert Mueller is interested in the answer. You might remember that when James Dodson asked Eric Trump about that, he said, “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

This demonstrates that Donald Trump might be the worst businessmen in America. He squandered his father’s entire fortune and might very well have gotten a Russian bailout about a decade before deciding to run for president. Even the most financially-challenged among us should be able to understand that sorry tale.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .