Sep 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats on Trump tax story: "This is a national security question"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the New York Times report that President Trump has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due within the next four years is a "national security question," and that the public has a "right to know" the details of his financial obligations.

The big picture: Democrats have already leapt on the Times' bombshell, which Trump has dismissed as "total fake news," to attack the president for allegedly paying less in federal income taxes than the average middle-class household.

  • Pelosi and several former law enforcement officials, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, have suggested that loans personally guaranteed by Trump could leave him vulnerable to foreign influence.
  • "This president is commander-in-chief," Pelosi said on MSNBC. "He has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom? The public has a right to know."

Driving the news: On the eve of the first presidential debate, the Times revealed Trump's paltry federal income tax payments — $750 each in 2016 and 2017, and $0 in 10 of the previous 15 years, because of losses — as well as this jaw-dropping surprise:

  • "[W]ithin the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due."
  • "Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."

Between the lines: The revelations give Joe Biden a political gift for the debate. Biden has been attacking Trump’s inheritance-fueled privilege, trying to chip away at the president's bond with white, working-class voters.

  • Now there's evidence that the president has been paying far less in income tax than many of the blue-collar workers who voted for him.
  • Scott Jennings, a Republican consultant, said on CNN when asked how Trump will handle the leak during the debate: "He thinks this makes him look smart."
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