The New York Times, after investigating Donald Trump’s U.S. real estate holdings, reports that companies owned by the GOP presidential nominee rely on a wide network of financial backers and are indeed carrying at least $650 million in debt — double the amount made apparent in Trump’s campaign-related public filings. Noting that much of Trump’s business “remains shrouded in mystery” due to the complex nature of real estate projects, the report points out that the discrepancy between what Trump has reported and what their investigation found is not Trump’s fault, but rather due to the fact that the financial disclosure form the Federal Election Commission makes candidates fill out is not designed for people with finances as complicated or extensive as Trump’s, and federal law only asks for a list of personal liabilities, not corporate debt.
Regardless, the report points out that this complicated nature of Trump’s often opaque financial holdings makes it difficult to determine just how much his business interests, which he has said he will relinquish to his children if elected, would potentially influence, or be influenced by, Trump’s presidency. This is particularly worrisome when considering how, if elected, Trump would be able to control monetary and tax policy, and through appointments and legislative influence, undoubtedly be able to impact his family business’s net worth. Also, some of Trump’s corporate debt is owed to financial institutions like the Bank of China, and though Trump has repeatedly focused on China as an economic enemy of the U.S. during his presidential campaign, it’s unclear how official U.S. dealings with China under a Trump administration could influence his businesses’ interests and debt there.
Trump has recently referred to himself as the “king of debt” when describing his business prowess, though the real estate mogul has also sought to emphasize that he has less debt now than he has had in the past. (Over the course of his career, four of Trump’s businesses have declared bankruptcy.) Trump has also insisted that he is worth a total of $10 billion, but neither he nor his campaign have backed that number up with evidence, and major business magazines have estimated his worth as less than $5 billion. Trump’s full financial picture would of course be made much clearer if he released his tax returns, but he has so far refused to do so.