Trump wants Americans to pay up for his crimes


Donald Trump’s utmost assault on American democracy and the rule of law has been his ability to exploit these foundational institutions to weaken each as he constantly makes a mockery of both. It’s part and parcel of his efforts to sustain personal power. The ultimate goal is to enable oligarchic domination and facilitate financial looting by the uber-wealthy. 

My aim in this commentary is to move beyond Trump’s procedural harms or distractions and to connect his very real substantive crimes, fraudulent behaviors, and policies of deception to the GOP’s larger and unending appropriation of accumulated capital from the US commonwealth.     

Contrary to Trump’s repetitive narrative about how the Justice Department (DOJ), state prosecutors, and the courts are engaging in some kind of persecution or witch-hunt and/or weaponization of the rule of law against the former president as part of a “deep state” conspiracy to interfere with his winning back the presidency in 2024, these civil and criminal agencies of adjudication have been bending over backward to privilege or accommodate Trump’s perpetual lawlessness inside and outside various courthouses across America.

Nevertheless, until Trump is finally criminally convicted by a jury of his peers, Trump’s narrative of persecution or victimization will continue to resonate in the minds of the GOP majority rather than the 91 felony counts against him.  

For example, the latest episodes of indulging the “man-child” occurred during closing arguments of Trump’s $370M civil fraud trial as well as his second sex abuse defamation civil trial in two Manhattan courtrooms located in close proximity.  

In the latter case, which ended Friday with a jury judgment that Trump must pay E. Jean Carroll over $83 million in damages, Judge Lewis Kaplan had this testy exchange with Trump. “I understand you’re probably very eager for me” to remove “you from the trial.” To which Trump sitting between his two lawyers at the defense table shouted back, “I would love it.” Of course, Trump would.

Trump had already been warned that he could be expelled for continuing to disrupt the trial. Nevertheless, the judicially found rapist of Carroll could be heard remarking loud enough to his lawyers for the jurors to hear, “it is a witch hunt” and “it really is a con job.” Never mind that Trump in a previous lawsuit by a jury of his peers had already been found civilly liable for sexual assault as well as defamation of character to the tune of $5 million. It’s little wonder he stormed out of the courtroom on Friday.

In the former case, Judge Arthur Engoron bent the rules and allowed Trump “to go on a courtroom rant lasting several minutes,” which had nothing whatsoever to do with either the law or the facts of the case.  Instead, Trump made another political speech claiming that the New York civil trial is a ‘fraud on me’ and that he was “an innocent man” who claimed among other things that the New York Attorney General Letitia James “hates” him and “doesn’t want me to get elected.” Trump also stated to the presiding judge, “I know this is boring you. I know you have your own agenda” here as well. 

Procedurally, either Trump as the defendant or one of his attorneys, but not both, was entitled to make the closing argument. However, Judge Engoron made an exception allowing Trump and his attorney Chris Kise to speak during closing arguments. Before doing so, the judge re-iterated what he had previously spelled out one week earlier about what Trump could or could not comment about as part of his closing arguments. Predictably, Trump totally disregarded Judge Engoron’s instructions the same as he had Judge Kaplan’s.

On Friday, former federal judge Barbara Jones, appointed by Engoron to monitor the Trump Organization’s finances, told the judge that Trump had failed to provide “information required to be submitted to me pursuant to the terms of the monitorship order and review protocol.”

Engoron coddled the former president and permitted his procedural misconduct because the judge knew that after his final decision — dismantling Trump’s New York base business empire – to be rendered later this month, Trump and his attorneys would be appealing and filing an avalanche of motions mostly to delay rather than rectify justice. By allowing Trump to speak, Engoron figured there would be one less bogus motion to be made about how the former president had been denied his right to speak on his own behalf.   

Again, I do not want to get caught up in these procedural abuses by Trump and his attorneys because their claims are primarily smokescreens designed to deflect attention away from the substantive lawlessness or fraudulent behavior involved in his adversarial conflicts with the administration of justice. 

In the case of the fraudulent business trial brought by the New York Attorney General, Trump’s phony legal defense pertaining to his illegal acquisition of money or to his financial looting from both the Internal Revenue System and the US monetary system is that these lending transactions allegedly caused no injuries to the parties involved. 

To paraphrase Trump: nobody was injured here or there were no harms to speak of. Of course, that is pure fiction or nonsense as the summary judgment has already been declared and as the final verdict will be revalidated in the next couple of days when Trump and company find themselves liable for at least $300 million.

Trump’s fraudulent business dealings involved in this civil case, like using other people’s money vis-à-vis deceitfully acquired lower interest rates along with tax evasion, are consistent with the former president’s modus operandi andsheds light on some of the other ways in which the 45th  president’s appointments of free marketers and deregulators facilitated financial looting on a much grander scale. The GOP’s $1.9 trillion tax break for the wealthy, signed by Trump, is perhaps the most infamous example

As I have argued in Indicting the 45th President, “the Racketeer-in-Chief as POTUS had established from the top down an administrative apparatus marked by placing self-interest, profiteering, and corruption above the public welfare.” In similar fashion, Trump’s “networks for raising and flowing cash loads of electronic money also helped to contribute to the ‘deadly insurrection that was rooted in the same self-serving ethos’.”

By the end of 2023, the ex-president had already spent more than $57 million of other people’s money on his legal fees, which will very likely continue to grow for the foreseeable future. While raising money to steal the election was unlawful, raising money to defend those people from trying to steal an election is perfectly lawful.  

As we have learned in some detail from the New York civil fraud trial, Trump has spent most of his dishonest life in search of money. His business history has been filled with overseas financial deals and missed deals. Some of these have involved the Chinese state where Trump “spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company.”  

China along with Britain and Ireland are three nations that we know about where Trump maintains bank accounts. These foreign accounts do not show up on  Trump’s public financial disclosures where he must list his personal assets because these accounts are not in his name. In the case of China, the bank account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management, LLC, whose tax records reveal that TIHM paid $188,561 in pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015 that did not pan out. During those same pre-MAGA years Trump had been paying the IRS less than $1,000 annually. 

Until 2019, China’s biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower stateside, a very lucrative lease that had generated accusations of conflicts of interest for the former president. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in its January 15, 2021, report on corruption identified more than 3,700 conflicts of interest while Trump was president because of his decision while in office not to divest from his business interests. 

As far as offshore banking laws and accounts go, the release of Trump’s taxes from 2015 to 2020 revealed that for at least 2016 he had an offshore bank account in the Caribbean nation of St. Martin, a popular place to avoid paying taxes. Nevertheless, recall when he was asked during the 2016 campaign whether U.S. citizens should be allowed to save or invest in offshore bank accounts, Trump responded: “No, too many wealthy citizens are abusing loopholes in offshore banking laws to evade taxes.” 

At the time, key planks in Trump’s tax reform plan would have allegedly ended the practices of U.S. multinationals stockpiling offshore hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. For the record, the sheltered tax dollars did not come home nor did outsourced jobs ever come back to America. Those were merely “talking points” that were never going to materialize during a Trump administration.

When it came to stocking the laissez-faire policy swamps, Trump’s political appointments included more than its share of high rolling donors with no expertise in anything let alone with an appropriate area of specialty. As for those appointments where expertise was required, those were located primarily in the areas of business, finance, and the law.

The economic orientation or philosophy of these appointments reinforced generally a “hands off” approach to regulation and taxation. These free marketers were not about recouping billions let alone trillions of dollars from the tax avoiding and tax evading superrich or mega corporations. Quite the contrary, these appointments involved persons who had specialized in tax avoidance. For example, four of Trump’s key economic appointments had been beneficiaries of shell companies and offshore banking accounts including Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, Steven Mnuchin, and Randal Quarles.  

Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn was the driver behind the White House tax reform act. Leaked documents reveal that between 2002 and 2006 Cohn was either president or vice-president of 22 separate offshore entities in Bermuda for Goldman Sachs. That was before Cohn eventually became the president and COO of Goldman Sachs, one of the foremost banking, securities, and investment management firms in the world.

As for secretary of state Rex Tillerson, leaked documents reveal that before he ascended to chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil in 2006 and while still presiding as president of ExxonMobil Yemen division, Tillerson was also a director of Marib Upstream Services Company that was incorporated in Bermuda in 1997. 

And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, before joining the Trump administration, was an offshore specialist and deputy chairman of CIT Bank. Mnuchin provided “financing structures for personal aircraft priced at tens of millions of dollars, which customers used to legally avoid sales taxes and other charges.”

Randal Quarles, Trump’s most senior banking “watchdog” was also outed in connection with offshore banks and tax evasion as he appeared prominently in the infamous Paradise Papers.

As we all know the only shining accomplishment of President Trump during his four years in office was a $1.9 trillion tax gift or cut enjoyed primarily by super-wealthy individuals, mega-corporations, and multinational businesses – to the ongoing detriment of the general population — who already had enjoyed the lowest tax rates in the corporate world. 

According to a Joint Committee on Taxation the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act between 2021 and 2031 will have increased the governmental deficit by $1 trillion. The Tax Foundation analysis stated over the same period that the tax cuts would cost $1.47 trillion in decreased revenue while adding only $600 billion in growth and savings.  

These economic projections are consistent with the negative or not “trickling down” benefits and failures to increase production after the same types of Reagan and Bush II administrations’ tax cuts or benefits for the corporate wealthy had also occurred.

What is consistent is that these same types of neoliberal taxing policies or practices of financial looting from other commonwealths around the global economy have yielded the same dismal outcomes in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and every other nation where they have been employed.

To summarize, reducing the top income tax rates for the rich has to date had no appreciable effect on economic growth anywhere in the world, but it has always been a bonanza for uber capitalists and oligarchs alike.

For the record, the U.S. national debt was $5.6 trillion in 2000 and as of January 2024 stands at over $33.99 trillion. Democratic Presidents Barack Obama (2008-2016) and Joe Biden (2020-2023) in 11 years accounted for $10.3 trillion while Republican Presidents George W. Bush (2000-2008) and Donald Trump (2016-2020) in 12 years accounted for a $10.9 trillion.   

Head-to-head: Trump accounted for the largest deficit growth in the 21st century of $6.7 trillion in four years while Biden accounted for only $2.5 trillion in his first three years in office.

In stark contrast, however, the deficits accumulated during the Obama and Biden administrations have benefitted the American people in numerous ways, for example, from health care coverage to infrastructure development. Meanwhile, the deficits accumulated by Bush II and Trump had only benefited the wealthy.   



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