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Why people are asking the wrong question about Donald Trump’s future

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This is the wrong question to ask. The right question is, how much is Trump in danger – legally and financially – in the next few years? And the answer is “a lot”.

I remembered that point on Thursday while reading the terrific article by Joan Biskupic on the pending Supreme Court delay on whether Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can access tax returns and financial records of Trump. Trump’s legal team continues to fight against the release of those files, with a brief due next month asking the court to hear oral arguments on the appeal.

Whether or not Trump wins in this particular case, he still faces an absolute legion of legal problems. Among them:

1. The New York attorney general’s office is examining how the Trump organization has valued its assets. Defamation lawsuits against E. Jean Carroll and Summer Zervos 3. A fraud lawsuit brought by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump. A charge of possible incitement by the DC Attorney General for Trump’s role in the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Two investigations into Trump’s attempts to pressure Georgian elected officials to overturn the state’s election results (good legal news for Trump, the lawsuits over his alleged violations of the emoluments clause while ‘he was president were rejected by the Supreme Court last month because, well, Trump is no longer in power.)

All of these various legal tangles – even if they all end up going in Trump’s favor – will cost a lot of money. And, oddly for a billionaire, Trump is not in great financial shape at the moment – and there are more issues on that front looming on the horizon.

According to financial disclosure documents released within hours of Trump leaving the White House last month, the ex-president’s eponymous company saw a major impact on its earnings last year.

Overall, Trump’s businesses produced almost 40% less revenue in 2020 compared to 2019. He earned $ 30 million less on his Doral property in Miami than in 2019. Trump International hotel in Washington and former President Turnberry’s property in Scotland were down. more than 60% year on year.

These income declines came even before Trump’s actions (and their absence) in the January 6 riots – a moment that led to his second impeachment by the House of Representatives and condemned him across politicians and citizens. business.

And Trump’s financial situation was already bad. Consider what we know about his financial situation from the New York Times which reports on his tax returns. As the Times’ David Leonhardt noted ahead of the 2020 election:

“[Trump] appears to be responsible for loans totaling $ 421 million, most of which mature within four years.

“If he were to be re-elected, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of determining whether to oust a sitting president. Whether he wins or loses, he’ll likely have to find new ways to use his brand and popularity among tens of millions of Americans to make money. “

Trump was not re-elected. Which means that any protections – or concessions – that financial institutions might be willing to give to a sitting president no longer exist. And outside the White House and with a brand badly damaged by his actions in the White House (culminating with his role in the January 6 riot), Trump’s earning power, especially through new sources of income, appears limited.

If the past is a prologue, Trump’s approach to this growing cloud of legal and financial problems will be to pursue and jeopardize his exit. This, from the New York Times about a Chicago skyscraper built by Trump that led him to incur $ 287 million in unpaid debt by 2010, illustrates this point:

“When the project ran into problems, it tried to get out of its huge debts. For most individuals or businesses, this would have been a recipe for ruin. But tax return data, other records and interviews show it rather than wrestling with a notoriously contentious, title-seeking client, lenders have reduced Mr. Trump to exactly what he seemed to be counting on. “

Trump has regularly boasted of his prowess in this regard. “Does anyone know more about litigation than Trump?” Trump said of himself during the election campaign in 2016. “I’m like a doctoral student in litigation.” That same year, Trump told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, “I’m the king of debt. I’m good at debt. No one knows debt better than I do. I’ve made my fortune using debt, and if things don’t work out I renegotiate the debt. I mean, it’s a smart thing, not a stupid thing. “

The question for Trump going forward is how much influence he retains over the people he owes money to. And how much it will be to muddy the waters with a multitude of legal deposits. Yes, these tactics have worked in the past. But Trump’s situation – legally and financially – has worsened since he left the White House.

The real question then about Trump’s future is whether he can get away with it until 2024. And that’s a very open question right now.

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