Donald Trump, RNC

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Trump Real Estate Entities
Carry Enormous Debt

| published August 21, 2016 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

Donald Trump’s various real estate holdings may be deeper in red ink than the GOP candidate would like people to think. A recent investigative report by the New York Times shows that Trump’s major real estate subsidiaries are as much as half a billion in debt, a mountain of debt much more serious than those previously disclosed in his companies’ various filings in New York, New Jersey and other states.

Trump has made no secret, however, that he dismisses such claims of indebtedness; the Presidential candidate has in the past said that viewing the balance between debt and capital is a matter of perspective, and that previous reports about his real estate firms’ deep red ink come from sources in the financial press or in other countries largely hostile to Trump and his business holdings, or from those with a political ax to grind.

Example: one major Trump real estate entity, a large Manhattan office building now apparently carrying millions in debt, is owned in part by Chinese firms, including the Bank of China. Trump has, in the past, attacked these claims as being deliberately overstated by Chinese investors who are unfriendly to Trump and his business interests. Trump also routinely includes in his stump speeches concerns about U.S. indebtedness to China and its largest banks and financial institutions.

But the New York Times also uncovered evidence that Trump has been routinely understating his immense pool of red ink, including the roughly $160 million borrowed from a New York investment group, Ladder Capital, which in Trump’s documents and disclosure forms he lists the debt as only $50 million. The NYT investigation shows that Trump’s business enterprises carry a much more serious debt load—hundreds of millions all told—than many comparable real estate and development firms.

All told, the Times’ investigation reports, Trump and his immediate business partnerships owe more than $2 billion. That sum can either be interpreted as massive, or in fact relatively small, depending on how one interprets the usefulness or the true value of debt.

Neither Trump nor his new campaign management team has responded directly to the NYT investigative report.

Last week Trump dumped campaign manager Paul Manafort after controversies surrounding Manafort’s paid work for a pro-Russian political group in The Ukraine, and his alleged financial connections to several Russian oligarchs who themselves have paper trails leading back to Russian mafia figures.

Manafort had hoped to stay on, but was asked by Trump to resign also because of the GOP nominee’s recent decline in poll numbers nationally. A dozen major polling firms show Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with a nine-to-ten point lead over Trump. Some polls also indicate that Clinton is pulling ahead of Trump in several key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia.

Manafort’s connections to political groups in the Ukraine had become the latest in a series of problems and misfires by the Trump campaign, which only a month ago had seen poll numbers showing Trump and Clinton in a virtual tie nationally. Manafort’s alleged alignment with the pro-Russian political leaders and the Russian oligarchs threw a renewed and harsh light on Trump’s frequent admiring comments about Russian leadership and President Vladimir Putin.

Taken alongside the falling poll numbers, Trump family members may have counseled the candidate to jumpstart his campaign by cutting Manafort loose. Manafort was the second Trump campaign chief this year; he had stepped in after the June resignation of Corey Lewandowski. Trump has replaced Manafort with Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster and strategist who was already working for the Trump campaign.

After meeting with top campaign advisors, family members and top staff, Trump decided early last week to initiate a major shake-up in the organization—a reboot which would include the dismissal of Manafort, who was also present at that meeting. Manafort’s successes had included an efficient and crushing defeat of the remaining anti-Trump forces in the several days leading into last month’s Republican convention. But the campaign had begun to founder within days, even amidst a not-so-picture-perfect Democratic convention and more email troubles for Hillary Clinton.

Conway has already begun making critical major decisions, including her announcement to the press earlier on Sunday that she no longer believes that Trump should release his tax returns—now at the center of much speculation and controversy. Conway, who months earlier had called for Trump to engage in more transparency and opened, said after careful consultation with the candidate and his attorneys she now feels that the pending audits of his taxes are much more serious than originally thought, and that she feels the prudent course of action is to delay their release to the public until the audit is complete.

Making the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows, Conway also said that the press should focus more on the tax plans being offered by Clinton and Trump—for which she clearly believes Trump has the better proposals—and less time worrying about the billionaire’s taxes, information about which he says he will release fully after the audit process is resolved.

Conway also goaded Clinton on the issue of accountability, characterizing the former Secretary of State to ABC News as “the least transparent, least accountable, and, I think, [most] joyless candidate in presidential political history.”

Trump’s new campaign manager also took to the talk shows to suggest that one o Trump’s signature proposals—the development and creation of a large force of immigration officers tasked with the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants—may now be off the table. Trump, she says, may no longer be necessarily in favor of mass deportation or a large scale program of so-called self-deportation.

“What he supports,” she told CNN, “is to make sure we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans looking for well-paying jobs, and that we are fair and humane to those living among us in this country.”

Related Thursday Review articles:

Federal Judge: Trump University Case Will go to Trial; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; August 5, 2016.

Republicans Nominate Trump Amidst Controversy; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; July 20, 2016.