Politics & Policy

Citing NYT Tax Story, Pelosi Questions Whether Putin Has Financial ‘Leverage’ Over Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the memorial service of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her casket lies in state during a memorial service in her honor in the Statuary Hall of the Capitol, Washington, D.C., September 25, 2020. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday expressed concern over a report that President Trump has $421 million in loans coming due in the next few years, calling the debt a “national security issue” and suggesting it could give foreign countries or individuals “leverage” over Trump.

A New York Times report on the president’s tax returns on Sunday claimed Trump is personally on the hook for the loans, leading the California Democrat to question how that financial burden might have influenced policy or relations with foreign nations like Russia. 

“This president appears to have over $400 million in debt. To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have? So for me, this is a national security question,” Pelosi said.

“We take an oath to protect and defend. This president is commander in chief. He has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, to whom? The public has a right to know,” she continued.

Without evidence, the House speaker then went on to say she felt Russia could be involved in paying back the loans.

“The question is what does Putin have on the president politically, personally, financially in every way that the president would try to undermine our commitment to NATO, give away the store to Russia and Syria, try to cast blame on Ukraine for interfering in our elections when he knows full well with the consensus from the intelligence community that it is Russia. The list goes on and on. The annexation in the Crimea, and the rest of that that the president just turns away from,” Pelosi said. “So, he says he likes Putin and Putin likes him. Well, what’s the connection? We’ll see.”

“But the fact is whatever that leads to, the fact is over $400 million in leverage that somebody has over the president of the United States,” she added.

The Times article stipulates that the new reporting did not reveal “any previously unreported connections to Russia.”

The report did find that, in addition to the $421 million the president owes in debt, he is also in an audit fight with the Internal Revenue Service over a $72.9 million tax refund he previously received. The paper also found that Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he was elected and during his first year in office, while he paid no income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years.

The Times said its report was based on documents obtained from sources with legal access to the records.

The president said the report was “fake,” while his company said that Trump had paid millions in “personal” taxes, though neither provided alternative numbers or proof.

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen on Monday said concern should lie not just with who Trump owes but how he will repay the loans. 

“Trump has over $420 million in outstanding loans that are coming due,” Cohen said in an appearance on MSNBC. “Now, in the event, there is a potential tax liability for the time period that they’re talking about, I mean, it could be hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. If you add those together, I mean, he’s very realistically facing a potential bankruptcy where people are concerned about in terms of your previous guest about foreign influence. I mean, the more likely scenario that I see is that he’ll find some corrupt foreign entity to help him out of the situation.”

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