Transparency journalism organization ProPublica set out to verify Donald Trump’s claimed income through two New York City municipal concessions. But in reporting on the discrepancies they found, Derek Kravitz and Cezary Podkul may have just opened a whole new conversation about the president’s Russian influence scandal.
Although Trump told the US Office of Government Ethics that he makes $21 million a year operating two Manhattan skating rinks and a Bronx golf course, “ProPublica obtained the financial records and receipts Trump submitted to New York City for the two leases and they show that he cleared a lot less from those deals, earning no more than half of what he claimed.”
“The records add to the suspicion — originally advanced by Fortune, Forbes and other news organizations — that Trump’s official disclosures exaggerate his accomplishments as a businessman by reporting gross receipts rather than actual profits,” they write.
Trump’s real income streams, and his tendency to lie about them, have been a matter of great speculation for a long time. Most explanations for these self-aggrandizing falsehoods focus on Trump’s malignant narcissism and the shame of his past bankruptcies.
But with Trump’s Russian influence scandal growing wider every day, ProPublica’s report raises the possibility that his exaggerations had a more sinister purpose: to conceal the true source of his personal wealth from the American people.
Consider one example that became known just this week. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported on Monday, Trump once sold a gaudy Florida mansion to Dmitry Rybolovlev for a tidy $60 million profit at a time when the Russian oligarch was desperately trying to protect his assets in a nasty divorce.
Watch the Rachel Maddow’s report below:
Wilbur Ross, who was confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of Commerce on Monday, has been a leading adviser to Russian “flight capital” and appears to have brokered the sale of the estate.
It’s hardly unreasonable to suppose that Donald Trump has sold other properties to Russian billionaires who were parking their money in the United States. Indeed, those are the very relationships he is said to have developed during his 2013 trip to Moscow, while his son Donald Trump Jr. admitted in 2008 that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
But Trump also doesn’t want those transactions to become known, so his lies about skating rink and golf course income may very well be a bid to launder the Russian cash out of public view, not just a salve to his ego.
All of these questions could easily be cleared up with the publication of Trump’s tax returns. But he continues to defy this tradition, and Republicans in charge of Congress have so far resisted all attempts to spring the documents loose. Until there is accountability, all we have are unanswered questions — and a documented history of prevarication about Trump Organization profits.
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