Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says Trump created ‘the first grifter presidency’ in US history and calls his tax returns ‘the smoking gun’ of his ‘pervasively criminal’ administration

  • Carl Bernstein tore into Donald Trump after a New York Times report lifted the lid on the president’s years of alleged tax avoidance and extensive debt
  • He called the report ‘the smoking gun of a pervasively criminal presidency’
  • ‘Donald Trump and his family are grifters,’ Bernstein said
  • The journalist charged that Trump’s fundamental reason for running for office was ‘to bail himself and his family out’
  • He also said called for an investigation into potential tax fraud by Trump 

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein accused Donald Trump of creating ‘the first grifter presidency’ in US history after the New York Times lifted the lid on the president’s years of alleged tax avoidance and extensive debt.  

Bernstein called the bombshell Times report ‘the smoking gun of a pervasively criminal presidency’ in an interview with CNN on Monday morning.

‘Donald Trump and his family are grifters,’ he said. ‘He has created the first grifter presidency in the history of the United States in which his purpose in running for the presidency and exercising the powers of the presidency – the fundamental reason is to bail himself and his family out.’

The Times report, based on nearly two decades’ worth of Trump’s tax returns, asserted that the president paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 – and zero federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior – because he reported losing more money than he made. 

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Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein (pictured) accused Donald Trump of creating ‘the first grifter presidency’ in US history after the New York Times lifted the lid on the president’s years of alleged tax avoidance and extensive debt

The Times report, based on nearly two decades’ worth of Trump’s tax returns, asserted that the president paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 – and zero federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior – because he reported losing more money than he made

The records also showed Trump is carrying a total of $421 million in debt and loans that are primarily due within four years. 

Trump, who campaigned for office as a billionaire real estate mogul and successful businessman, decried the report as ‘phony and fake’ and insisted he has paid taxes, but gave no specifics.

Speaking to CNN, Bernstein said there are ‘certainly implications of tax fraud to begin with that needs to be looked at’, along with the question of ‘what other obligations does he have’.

‘This president needs to be thoroughly investigated in terms of how the United States has or may have been compromised by his actions, his selfishness, his putting his own interests, financial, in front of the interests of the United States,’ he said.  

He called on Congress and the press to launch investigations ‘to find out just how great a national security threat to this country our president is, particularly in his dealings with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin [and] with [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’.

‘Follow the money, follow the lies,’ Bernstein said. 

‘[The Times report] shows the fundamental corruption and criminality of Donald Trump, and now we have the definitive evidence.

‘He is trying to make the conduct of the press the issue instead of the conduct of himself in his refusal to pay taxes adequately, and also to keep them secret.’ 

Bernstein also took aim at Trump’s attempts to discredit the Times report, saying: ‘The issue is Donald Trump and whether or not he has compromised the American people once again for his own financial gain and for his grifter family.’

‘Donald Trump and his family are grifters,’ Bernstein said, asserting that Trump has used the presidency to bolster his financial standing while potential defrauding the US government

This is the second time this month that Bernstein, the former Washington Post journalist who reported alongside Bob Woodward to expose the Watergate scandal, has publicly attacked the president. 

On September 14 he slammed Trump as a ‘homicidal president’ who is hosting ‘homicidal assemblies’ with his indoor campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic.  

‘You’re witnessing a homicidal president convening, purposefully, a homicidal assembly to help him get reelected instead of protecting the health and welfare of the United States, including supporters whose lives he is willing to sacrifice,’ Bernstein told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.   

‘Here is this president, who has staked part of his presidency on the right to life, particularly of the unborn, and every day he has sacrificed the lives of thousands of Americans because he is unwilling to deal honestly, forthrightly, meaningfully, with the greatest domestic crisis in our post-war history in this country.

‘Now we’ve seen in front of us, tonight, this homicidal assembly that the president of the United States has called his supporters to be sacrificial lambs. It’s astonishing.’ 

 Trump responded to that rebuke by calling Bernstein a ‘total nut job’. 

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT ON TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS

TRUMP PAID JUST $750 IN TAXES IN BOTH 2016 and 2017.

The newspaper said Trump initially paid $95 million in taxes over the 18 years it studied. But he managed to recover most of that money by claiming — and receiving — a stunning $72.9 million federal tax refund. 

According to the Times, Trump also pocketed $21.2 million in state and local refunds, which are typically based on federal filings.

Trump’s outsize refund became the subject of a now-long-standing Internal Revenue Service audit of his finances. The audit was widely known. Trump has claimed it was the very reason why he cannot release his returns. But the Times report is the first to identify the issue that was mainly in dispute.

As a result of the refund, Trump paid an average $1.4 million in federal taxes from 2000 to 2017, the Times reported. By contrast, the average U.S. taxpayer in the top .001% of earners paid about $25 million annually over the same time-frame.

TRUMP HAS FINANCED AN EXTRAVAGANT LIFESTYLE WITH THE USE OF BUSINESS EXPENSES

From his homes, his aircraft — and $70,000 on hair styling during his television show “The Apprentice” — Trump has capitalized on cost incurred from his businesses to finance a luxurious lifestyle.

The Times noted that Trump’s homes, planes and golf courses are part of the Trump family business and, as such, Trump classified them as business expenses as well. Because companies can write off business expenses as deductions, all such expenses have helped reduce Trump’s tax liability.

MANY OF HIS BEST-KNOWN BUSINESSES ARE MONEY-LOSERS

The president has frequently pointed to his far-flung hotels, golf courses and resorts as evidence of his success as a developer and businessman. Yet these properties have been been draining money.

The Times reported that Trump has claimed $315 million in losses since 2000 on his golf courses, including the Trump National Doral near Miami, which Trump has portrayed as a crown jewel in his business empire. Likewise, his Trump International Hotel in Washington has lost $55 million, the Times reported.

FOREIGN VISITORS HAVE HELPED SUPPORT TRUMP’S PROPERTIES

Since Trump began his presidential run, lobbyists, foreign governments and politicians have lavished significant sums of money on his properties, a spending spree that raised questions about its propriety and legality.

The Times report illustrates just how much that spending has been: Since 2015, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has taken in $5 million more a year from a surge in membership. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association spent at least $397,602 in 2017 at Trump’s Washington hotel. Overseas projects have produced millions more for Trump — $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.

TRUMP WILL FACE FINANCIAL PRESSURE AS DEBTS COME DUE

Trump seems sure to face heavy financial pressures from the enormous pile of debt he has absorbed. The Times said the president appears to be responsible for $421 million in loans, most of which will come due within four years. On top of that, a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower in New York will come due in 2022.

Reporting by the Associated Press

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