President Donald Trump said Wednesday that a report showing he dodged hundreds of millions of dollars in debt proved him to be a “smart guy,” reprising a much-criticized defense of his business and financial practices.
“As a developer long ago, and continuing to this day, the politicians ran Chicago into the ground,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I was able to make an appropriately great deal with the numerous lenders on a large and very beautiful tower. Doesn’t that make me a smart guy rather than a bad guy?”
The president’s social media post came after The New York Times reported Tuesday that his lenders for the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago had since 2010 forgiven roughly $270 million in unpaid bills accumulated as part of the massive real estate project.
Trump’s latest tweet closely resembles other arguments he has employed in response to news accounts of his financial records. After the Times reported in October 2016 that he had declared a nearly $1 billion loss on his 1995 tax returns, Trump remarked during a presidential debate that not paying federal income taxes “makes me smart.”
Democrats have since recalled that line to accuse the president of evading his taxes — part of a broader assault on what they claim are Trump’s decades of shady financial dealings.
The Times also reported in October 2018 that Trump perpetrated dubious tax schemes and outright fraud during the 1990s to bolster the inheritance he received from his parents, the equivalent today of at least $413 million.
More recently, the Times reported last month that Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and that he was responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million — with most of that amount due to be paid within the next four years.
The president pushed back against that investigation by the Times, insisting that he was “entitled” to take advantage of various financial loopholes while claiming to be under-leveraged and in possession of “very little debt.”
Trump appeared to confirm at an NBC News town hall event earlier this month that he did indeed owe at least $400 million in debt. Although Trump said he did not “owe Russia money,” when asked whether any of the debt was owed to foreign banks or entities, he replied: “Not that I know of, but I will, probably.”
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