How Trump managed to hide his Chinese business – Mother Jones

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017.Andrew Harnik / AP

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The last revelation of New York Times blanket of President Donald Trump’s tax returns is that he has a bank account in China, an account that has never been mentioned before. How did it happen?

While the Times got his hands on Trump’s tax information, he has long refused to provide it to the public, despite decades of tradition and presidential precedents. When asked for his tax returns, Trump often tries to obscure by pointing to his personal financial disclosure, a form to be submitted by presidential candidates and federal office holders. Trump likes to brag about the length of his form. And it is long and contains a lot of information, but not enough.

The exposure of Trump’s Chinese account once again underscores why the public needs to see the tax returns of presidential candidates. Without them, the disclosures provide information about what they own and owe, but the details of how they got those assets and liabilities are hidden.

According to ethics experts, the law requires Trump to disclose all of his assets, debts and income in his personal financial statements. But he does not have to divulge the details of his business operations. So while Trump To said he has bank accounts, he didn’t need to say that one of the hundreds of LLCs he personally owns – Trump International Hotel Management – has a Chinese bank account.

“Filers do not have to disclose debts related to the business or assets related to the business. As strange as it sounds, and as counterintuitive as it may be, this is the direction of the Office of Government Ethics, ”says Kathleen Clark, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. So Trump must disclose that he owns a business, but not whether the business has bank accounts or loans.

Trump’s surrogates, like his son Eric Trump, have tried to downplay the Chinese account’s revelation, saying that the president “has already considered the agreements, long before the policy”, but the Times The play makes it clear that he made a concerted effort to make money in China from the early days of his 2016 campaign, when he was negotiating with a potential partner (according to the Times, the case collapsed when the partner was harassed in a corruption investigation). The Times cites that one of Trump’s LLCs, THC China Development LLC, claimed $ 84,000 in deductions in 2012 and paid fees and taxes more recently, transactions showing Trump’s financial interest in China was not not “long before politics”. While THC China Development LLC has been listed on Trump’s personal financial disclosure forms, showing whether or not he was active can only be done with the details provided by the president’s tax returns.

In this way the Times history raises more questions than it answers. On his personal financial disclosure, Trump has many seemingly named LLCs for overseas projects that never happened, but, like with THC China Development LLC, is there more to their stories?

For example, according to personal financial information, in August 2015, several months after the start of Trump’s presidential campaign, he created a series of companies which, on the basis of his name, indicate that he was studying the possibility of opening a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the gateway to Islam’s holiest places, Mecca and Medina. The sites attract massive tourists and tourism in Jeddah is a huge industry, and it would be difficult to penetrate without at least the approval, if not participation, of senior members of the Saudi royal family. Like the Chinese LLC, Saudi LLCs never appear to have generated any revenue, but personal financial disclosure forms do not say how far Trump has progressed in his talks with potential Saudi business partners, or who those partners were. Trump’s tax returns would help close these loopholes.

The Times the revelation about Chinese bank accounts worries ethics experts like Clark and Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior ethics director at Campaign Legal Center, an ethics watchdog group.

“There’s always a concern whether or not this is full disclosure of all of his financial interests, so for sure that’s not the final picture,” Payne said.

“The most important point,” he said, “is that a president should divest himself of all his interests because otherwise you have these inherent and incessant conflicts.”

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