The New York Times reports that President Donald Trump’s claim that he is a self-made billionaire whose only head start was a “small loan of a million dollars” from his father is false.
The New York Times notes that Trump inherited much of his family’s wealth — $413 million — through tax dodging and outright fraud from his father’s real estate empire.
David Barstow, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times and the lead author on the new investigation, told Democracy Now:
I think there’s two core findings. One is simply that the narrative that Donald Trump has sold to the public for many decades now, the thing that made him famous, that gave him political power and that ultimately I think was the central focus of his presidential campaign, is this narrative that he is a self-made billionaire.
And what this story really reveals is the extent to which that just simply doesn’t square with the facts that are uncovered and that we show in this story. So that’s sort of I think point number one.
Point number two is, not only did he receive $413 million from his father, not only did he receive another $140 million in today’s dollars in loans from his father, but that that amount, the amount of money, was significantly increased by a series of tax schemes that the tax experts that we consulted with in our reporting, laying this out to them, said these things go way beyond the normal tax avoidance strategies that wealthy, sophisticated people will employ in any event to lower their tax bill.
This was a set of maneuvers that were actually intended to deceive the IRS about the value of things that were being given from Fred and Mary Trump to Donald Trump and his siblings.
I think those are the two main points–that there’s a huge amount of money flowing, not just when he was a young man, but actually throughout Donald Trump’s life, especially when he was in financial difficulties, especially when he was taking on new projects, and that that river of money was fed very much so by tax evasion, tax dodges.
Barstow said that Fred Trump was funneling hundreds thousands of dollars to son Donald when he was a toddler. Barstow also explained how Fred used government handouts to build his empire:
Yeah. So how does a three-year-old end up making $200,000 a year? That’s a good question.
Here’s how it worked. Fred Trump—Wayne is absolutely right that he was a really great builder in the outer boroughs, but much of his building was actually made possible through federal housing subsidies.
He was actually one of the country’s biggest recipients of cheap building loans basically made possible by the federal government.
He used $26 million or so of those cheap loans to build two of his biggest apartment complexes in New York, a place called Beach Haven and another place called Shore Haven, both out in Brooklyn.
These are massive, massive apartment complexes, thousands and thousands of units. So he was building those in the late ’40s, and what he did was something quite clever.
He put the land underneath the buildings into a trust and made his children the beneficiaries of that trust.
And then he had the companies, his companies that were actually building the buildings on top of the land, sign 99-year leases to pay rent to the landlords, his young children.
And so what that meant was that Donald Trump, starting at age three, was Fred Trump’s landlord. He was collecting rent payments from Fred Trump’s companies.
And it was this kind of maneuver, setting up these financial mechanisms, that would just create these automatic streams of money that just sort of month by month by month would trickle into trust accounts or into partnerships and find their way, ultimately, into the pockets of his children.
Fred Trump was just a genius at coming up with new ways, new revenue streams to funnel into the pockets of his children. So he didn’t just make his children his landlord; he also made his children his banker.
He made Donald Trump—didn’t just put him on the salary as a vice president of Fred Trump’s companies; he also then paid him separately to be his consultant. He paid him separately to be a property manager. He paid him separately to be a purchasing agent. And on and on and on it went.
And in the course of all of—as we gathered up all of the records from inside of Fred Trump’s real estate empire, we started counting up—how many different revenue streams has he created for Donald Trump through the years? And we got up to—295 is what we counted, what we were able to document.
Some of these things, they weren’t in and of themselves big money. For example, Fred Trump funneled the laundry revenue from his buildings to Donald.
That’s not a lot of money, but when you sort of start aggregating it, putting it all together, it is just this mighty endless river of money flowing constantly into the bank accounts of Donald Trump.
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