USA

Trump’s tax returns stoke long-held national security concerns

It also highlights how if were Trump not the President, a role that grants him access to the country's most sensitive secrets, he would almost certainly have a difficult time gaining the security clearance that so many of those who work for him are required to have, according to legal experts familiar with the vetting process.Trump is personally liable for debts and loans totaling $421 million, The New York Times reported on Sunday evening, and most of it comes due in the next four years — an amount that former intelligence officials, Democratic lawmakers and legal experts warn could be used as leverage against him, and in turn, the US itself."A vulnerability could be exploited by an adversary," Robert Cardillo — a former top intelligence official in both the Obama and Trump administrations — told CNN on Monday. "If we as an intelligence community were assessing a foreign leader, and trying to understand his or her stability, and knew of outsized debts to a foreign or even to a national entity, we would see that as a risk,"Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC she also saw the stunning revelations about Trump's chaotic finances as a national security problem."He has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom? The public has a right to know," she said. "The fact is, over $400 million in leverage that somebody has over the President of the United States," Pelosi added. "If he were going to be a federal appointee, that would be a major obstacle, because someone has leverage over him."Debt is one of the items security officials who are adjudicating clearances look at because of the potential for an adversary to leverage it or, if the person is more desperate, use it as a basis for blackmail, experts say.The level of Trump's debt is "beyond comprehension in the national security world," said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who represents clients in security clearance cases."Security clearances are denied every day based on facts that dwarf his circumstances," Zaid added. "Although a president does not require a security clearance by virtue of the position itself, the circumstances that exist are incredibly troubling. Can we trust Donald Trump to protect our country's interests or his own personal ones?"Indeed, Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner — both senior White House advisers — saw their top-secret security clearances initially delayed, before the President — who has the authority to do so — facilitated their approval.At a White House briefing Sunday, Trump called the New York Times story "fake news" and claimed that he pays "a lot" in federal income taxes.

Trump's personal debt renews longtime fears

Trump's reported personal debts underscore a longtime fear about his administration held by critics and Democratic lawmakers — that he is managing US diplomacy in order to prioritize his own personal and financial goals rather than the wider national interests.Trump, for instance, has derived millions of dollars in income from business ventures in countries like Turkey and the Philippines that are led by autocrats whom he has praised but who infringe on traditional US values like human rights. And while The New York Times reported that he had paid little federal income tax to the Treasury from 2000 to 2017, the President or his companies have paid more in taxes to foreign powers, according to the Times, including $145,400 to India and $156,824 to the Philippines in 2017. The Times report opens the extraordinary possibility that the lenders could be called upon to decide whether to foreclose on businesses owned by the US President while he is in office if he is unable to pay back the money.Trump's closest allies, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have historically dismissed questions about the President's personal finances and potential conflicts of interest."I find that question bizarre," Pompeo said in 2018 when asked how he can assure the American people that US foreign policy is free of Trump's personal conflicts of interest given that his tax returns have not been made public. "I have seen literally no evidence of what you are scurrilously suggesting. … It is an outrageous suggestion."But now questions about his personal debt raise a "genuine question of foreign leverage and leverage over the President … which means there's leverage over the United States," according to John Gans, who was a Pentagon speechwriter for then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter."Where this money is owed and who it's owed [to], and the way he conducts his foreign policy are an enormous risk to the US national interest," said Gans, who serves as director of communications and research at the University of Pennsylvania World House Global Policy Center. "We can't tie down who he owes, and who he might be trying to serve and make happy, and we can't see what he's agreeing to do."Zaid agreed, telling CNN that "debt is one of the primary security clearance concerns held by the government. Historically, financial problems are among the key factors that lead to committing espionage and betraying our country.""While all cases are about demonstrating mitigation … a debt of several hundred million dollars is beyond comprehension in the national security world," he said.Trump and members of his family who maintain top jobs at the White House have often circumvented traditional government-vetting processes in pursuit of foreign policy deals touted as key tenets of his reelection campaign.For example, the Trump administration used a controversial emergency authority to sell weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia without congressional approval and, more recently, the White House brokered an agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates with little input from lawmakers or key agencies typically involved in the process. "The deal-making is part of his foreign policy record. The problem is we don't know what's in the deals. We don't know what's being promised," Gans told CNN.

More questions about Trump's business dealings in Russia

The Times report emphasized that it did not discover new ties between the President and Russia. But intelligence officials have long questioned what might explain Trump's leniency when it comes to Moscow and President Vladimir Putin.The President's first director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, according to Bob Woodward, "continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump." Coats felt, according to Woodward's book titled "Rage," "How else to explain the president's behavior?"Trump has repeatedly clashed with the intelligence community, including Coats, over the issue of Russian interference — an unsettling dynamic that has created one of the more unusual spectacles of his presidency and raised questions about his motivations, particularly as they relate to investigations into Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.CNN also previously reported that Read More – Source

cnn