Fact Check: Is Donald Trump More Than $400 Million in Debt?

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Getty US President Donald Trump (left) and US Vice President Mike Pence (right).

During the one and only vice presidential debate for the 2020 presidential elections, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s tax record after vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said that he was more than $400 million in debt.

The accusation came as the former Indiana governor was facing off against Harris on Wednesday, October 7.

The debate was moderated by USA Today reporter Susan Page and located at a performing arts theater called Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. The debaters were separated by plexiglass and separated by 12 feet to observe as many of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines around COVID-19.

The debate was held against the backdrop of a coronavirus outbreak in the White House, as nearly a dozen Republican officials and members of Trump’s cabinet contracting coronavirus, including President Trump himself; Trump’s wife, Melania; former New Jersey governor Chris Christie; campaign manager Bill Stepien; White House advisors Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks; Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee; former advisor Kellyanne Conway; and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Prior to the outbreak at the White House, a story from The New York Times revealed that Donald Trump had paid only $750 in taxes in 2017 and was in debt of more than $400 million dominated headlines. Trump has said that the stories were false and that he would prove they were false by releasing his tax documents after they were finished being audited, CNBC reported.

The New York Times Reported that Trump Owes $421 Million in Debt

According to The New York Times, Trump owes $125 million on his Doral golf course and $160 million in loans for his Washington hotel, which make up a sizable part of his $421 million debt Here is the exact quote from The Times which describes his debts:

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 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 Times also reported that Trump was “personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it coming due within four years.” The Times also added that Trump could conceivably declare that debt as part of his financial losses in the future, which would allow him to pay even less in taxes if he leverages it against his income.

The Times also revealed that Trump deducted $70,000 from his taxes for hairstyling while he was hosting the TV show, “The Apprentice.”

Here Are the Political Implications of the Times’ Story on Trump’s Taxes

The Associated Press reported that Trump’s debt, most of which was in borrowed funds, poses a national security risk. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former 2020 vice-presidential candidate who is often critical of Trump, told the AP, “He may be vulnerable to financial blackmail from a hostile foreign power and God knows what else.”

Others have pointed out that the revelations may negatively impact two of Trump’s signature, seemingly oppositional brands: that he is a wealthy, successful billionaire who is also a champion for the average working people who make up his base.

The Washington Post reported that the revelations gave Biden an opportunity to, “cast the Republican Party as the party of corrupt big business” after promising at his rallies to “drain the swamp.” According to a 2019 IRS Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey, 91% of Americans believe that those who cheat on taxes should be held accountable.

In The New York Times’ 2019 bombshell expose, “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father,” they noted that Trump, “Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show.”

An opinion piece from a self-described “former Trump voter” in The Boston Globe also left a scathing review of Trump’s claims that he was a successful businessman and also to end corruption. “He has aggressively manipulated those losses to reduce or negate his federal income tax payments. For 10 of the 15 years previous to 2016, he paid no federal income tax at all,” the author wrote. “Trump didn’t drain the swamp. His administration has been a bonanza for industry insiders and politically connected opportunists.”

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