US inauguration: Donald Trump facing ‘financial minefield’ after leaving White House

Donald Trump has stepped straight from the grounds of the White House today into a “financial minefield”.

Exacerbated by his incessant, baseless claims of election fraud and the violent siege on the US Capitol, carried out by the ex-president’s most “loyal” supporters earlier this month, the situation “appears to be unlike anything he has faced since his earlier brushes with collapse”, The New York Times’ Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig declared in a new article.

A bombshell report by the Times last September revealed the tax records he had long fought to keep hidden, claiming the self-described billionaire had been paying a minuscule amount of income tax and has hundreds of millions of dollars in personal debts due within the next four years.

Many of his resorts were losing millions of dollars a year – even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck; he had “burned through” much of his cash and easy-to-sell assets and a decade-old IRS audit threatened to cost him more than US$100 million to resolve.

Last September, Forbes estimated that Trump’s net worth had dropped by US$600 million in a year to US$2.5 billion.

While in the past the 74-year-old could pull himself out of similar binds by banking on his mainstream marketability and television stardom, the chaotic, final months of his presidency have eroded any of the charm or gravitas he once held.

“Donald Trump will be remembered as the first president to be impeached twice,” Matthew Continetti, journalist fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the BBC.

“He fed the myth that the election was stolen, summoned his supporters to Washington to protest the certification of the Electoral College vote, told them that only through strength could they take back their country, and stood by as they stormed the US Capitol and interfered in the operation of constitutional government.

“When historians write about his presidency, they will do so through the lens of the riot.”

Had Trump “followed the example of his predecessors and conceded power graciously and peacefully, he would have been remembered as a disruptive but consequential populist leader”, Continetti said.

But the “attack on democracy” that was January 6 – when Trump’s reputation was already on a knife’s edge – saw his “last-ditch lenders vow to cut him off”.

His own son – though hardly a reliable source of information – recently declared there “has never been a political figure with more support or energy behind them than my father”.

“There will be no shortage of incredible opportunities in real estate and beyond,” Eric Trump told The New York Times in a statement.

Yet the PGA has wiped its hands of him, cancelling an upcoming tournament at Trump’s Bedminster golf course, and New York City moved to strip him of contracts to run several venues.

“Trump is so reputationally toxic that a lot of financial institutions won’t want to do business with him,” Georgetown University’s Professor Adam J Levitin, who focuses on finance and bankruptcy, told the publication.

While the Trump campaign has managed to raise more than US$250 million in political donations since the November election, campaign finance laws ban him from using the entire amount to solve his money woes.

Trump personally guaranteed repayment of a US$100 million loan on Trump Tower next year; US$125 million on his Doral golf resort in Florida in 2023; and US$170 million on Washington’s Trump International Hotel in 2024.

If he fails to pay or refinance, lenders could pursue his other assets.

He’s also staring down the barrel of multiple legal battles – threatening to deepen any financial hardship – that include investigations into potential tax fraud, civil suits for his role in promoting a multi-level marketing scheme and allegations of defamation and sexual misconduct.

During his presidency, Trump’s lawyers repeatedly invoked immunity and executive privilege to keep him from having to testify – but once again a private citizen, he’s now far more vulnerable, having departed Washington in greater legal jeopardy than when he arrived.

“It’s a potential avalanche,” former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle told NPR in November.

“But this is, again, a man that is very used to using the legal system to his advantage.”

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