October 1, 2020 – A review of Donald Trump’s tax returns confirms him to be a failed businessman, a serial tax evader, and a walking national security threat, who also happens to be the Commander-in-Chief. Within the next four years, hundreds of millions of dollars in personal loans will come due for Trump—a dangerous liability for a President with a long record of leveraging U.S. foreign policy for his personal and political benefit. 

This threat is far from hypothetical. Foreign governments have long known that catering to Trump’s financial interests, rather than America’s national interest, is the most reliable way to advance their own priorities. 

Even before his gargantuan debt came to light, allies and adversaries alike were well aware that Trump has placed American foreign policy up for sale: 


Trump’s Foreign Conflicts of Interest

  • The state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has been one of the largest leaseholders in Trump Tower. They pay more per square foot and occupy more space than any other major office tenant in a deal worth more than $1.5 million annually to Trump’s firm, as of 2012.
  • The Trump family surged its trademark applications worldwide in 2016. According to one analysis, the Chinese government granted 41 trademarks to companies linked to Ivanka Trump by April of 2019; those she applied for after Trump’s election were approved about 40% faster than those she requested before his victory. Those applications have posed ongoing conflicts of interest throughout her father’s presidency, as Beijing has granted trademarks around key events in U.S.-China relations. 

Trump’s Foreign Policy Pay-Offs

  • Despite Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE’s violations of U.S. sanctions, Trump declared he would work with Xi to save the company, citing “too many jobs lost in China.” China approved five trademarks for Ivanka Trump six days before Trump’s ZTE announcement, and two more following the announcement. 
  • Within a month of Trump abandoning his pledge to upend U.S.-China relations, Beijing granted approval for 38 new Trump trademarks. Trump then backed off on calling China a currency manipulator, which he had pledged to do on his first day in office. 

Saudi Arabia

Trump’s Foreign Conflicts of Interest 

  • Trump, his company, and his family have long benefitted from Saudi investment. Despite claiming to have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia, Trump boasted in 2015: “I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundred of millions.” Later in 2015, he stated: “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
  • The Trump Hotel in Washington accepted some $270,000 in payments from the Saudi government between October 2016 and March 2017. In 2018, the Trump Hotel in Manhattan saw a 13% increase in revenue for the quarter—following two years of declining revenue—thanks to a visit by a delegation accompanying the Saudi Crown Prince.

Trump’s Foreign Policy Pay-Offs

  • During Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017, Trump touted $350 billion in deals with the Saudis, including an arms sale negotiated by Jared Kushner, and $20 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The move hugely benefited Blackstone, which has historically been one of Kushner Companies largest lenders. Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, joined Trump and Kushner on the trip—at the time, Schwarzman headed Trump’s business advisory council.
  • After the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump publicly refused to accept the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that the Saudi Crown Prince ordered the killing, and later bragged about “saving” Mohammed bin Salman. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop,” he said


Trump’s Foreign Conflicts of Interest

  • Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving for Putin, perhaps in part because of his longstanding reliance on Russian money to bail out his failed business. Donald Trump Jr. admitted in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because: “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
  • When Trump World Tower opened in 2001, Trump began looking for buyers in Russia and sold 65 units to Russians in that property alone. For more than three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to the Russian mafia held the deeds to, lived in, or ran criminal operations out of Trump Tower or other Trump properties. In 2002, after Trump had racked up $4 billion in debt from his disastrous ventures in Atlantic City, the Russians again came to his rescue.
  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Trump hoped to make “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources” for a project in Moscow that was advancing “at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.” 

Trump’s Foreign Policy Pay-Offs

  • At their 2018 summit in Helsinki, Trump sided with Putin over American intelligence in front of the entire world when he rejected U.S. conclusions that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf.
  • Trump and his administration sat for months on intelligence that Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill American troops. Instead of taking action, Trump took Putin’s side by calling the conclusions of the American intelligence community “not credible.”
  • Days before the 2019 G7 summit, Trump expressed his desire to welcome Russia back into the group, from which it had been kicked out for its illegal annexation of Crimea. In 2020, Trump postponed hosting the G7 in part to again invite Russia to attend—despite repeated rejections from our allies. 
  • By conditioning military aid to Ukraine on investigating his domestic political rival, Trump betrayed American national security, corroded American power, and sent a signal to world leaders—and especially to Putin, who continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory and undermine its democracy—that America’s foreign policy is up for sale. 
  • All the while, Trump has gone out of his way to laud Putin and his authoritarian rule, bestowing undue legitimacy in the process—and Trump’s abdication of American global leadership has left a void that Putin has rushed to fill. 


Trump’s Foreign Conflicts of Interest 

  • Trump has significant financial interests in Turkey, including a Trump property. In December 2015, he openly stated: “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

Trump’s Foreign Policy Pay-Offs

  • Trump decided to withdraw American forces from Syria after a phone call with the Turkish President, paving the way for Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria and the massacre of the Kurds, a vital U.S. partner. The subsequent so-called ceasefire gave Erdogan everything he wanted without the United States gaining anything in return.
  • Trump promised Erdogan he would “take care of” a Justice Department criminal investigation into the Turkish bank Halkbank that Erdogan feared would implicate his family. 

More and more voters recognize that a president who profits off the presidency is a president who cannot be trusted with our national security, as recent polling makes clear:

  • 55% of battleground-state voters believe that Trump’s foreign policy is about what’s best for Trump, even when it goes against American interests and security.
  • 57% of Americans have expressed that they are very or somewhat concerned that Trump’s business relationships conflict with his ability to serve the nation. 

What They’re Saying

  • HR McMaster, CNN
    • The president may not have led by example at least in terms of paying taxes… It’ll be an issue… that our adversaries will try to exploit.”
  • Bloomberg (Op-Ed): “Trump’s Taxes Show He’s a National Security Threat”
    • Due to his indebtedness, his reliance on income from overseas and his refusal to authentically distance himself from his hodgepodge of business, Trump represents a profound national security threat – a threat that will only escalate if he’s re-elected.
  • Rolling Stone: “Trump’s Massive Debts Are a National Security Crisis
    • The Times‘ bombshell — the first in a new series of stories scrutinizing tax records that Trump himself has refused to disclose — also underscores how indebted Trump is personally, and how those debts would come due in the second term of a Trump presidency, posing a grave conflict of interest and a national-security threat.
  • Washington Post (Op-Ed): “Trump’s Taxes Show Why He is Desperate to Stay in Office
    • As former FBI agent Josh Campbell points out, that much debt ‘disqualifies most people from obtaining a government security clearance,’ because the U.S. government ‘views this as a vulnerability and a point of leverage for foreign adversaries seeking access to classified information.’
  • Washington Post (Op-Ed): “Stunning New Revelations about Trump’s Taxes also Expose a Hidden Weakness
    • Trump’s massive personal stake in his battle with the IRS raises questions about how far he’ll go in wielding his control over the executive branch — of which the IRS is a part — to his own personal benefit, which he has done in all kinds of other ways.
  • Washington Monthly: “Whoever Owns Trump’s Enormous Debts Could Be Running the Country
    • Despite its potential to land the entire Trump family in penury and jail, what is far more terrifying for the country isn’t what lies in his past of tax avoidance. It’s the time bomb of debt that lies in Trump’s very near future. It’s about the mystery of who owns Trump’s outlandish debts, and the degree of secret power they may be wielding over the country.”

The United States is stronger, safer, and more respected in the world when we use our power wisely, stand strong with allies and partners, pursue principled diplomacy, and remain true to the values that have long defined us at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org