During his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, observed, “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes.”
And when author David Cay Johnston appeared on CNN this morning he explained why the attorney’s statement on Trump’s finances was quite accurate—and why Trump isn’t as wealthy as he would have people believe.
Johnston recalled, “I revealed in 1990 that he wasn’t a billionaire, and Donald called me a liar until he had to put in the record documents showing he had a negative net worth of almost $300 million.”
Johnston told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that exaggerating his net worth is nothing new for The Donald, basically confirming everything Cohen said earlier this week.
The biographer then went on to say this about the president’s financial situation:
“People are going to be very shocked about his finances, and they will see that he has the lifestyle of a billionaire, but he doesn’t have any kind of wealth.”
Camerota asked Johnston what Americans can expect when Trump’s tax returns are made public. The author responded:
“One of the things that we’re going to see is that his adjusted gross income in recent years was less than $500,000.”
“We know that because he got something in New York called the star property tax credit on his principal home, which is in Trump Tower. You only get that if your adjusted gross income is less $500,000.”
Johnston also implied that Trump’s tax returns may contain inaccuracies, and this could be a big reason why the president has always refused to release his returns to the public.
Camerota went on to play for Johnston a clip of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning Cohen during Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing. Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen if Trump ever provided “inflated assets to an insurance company,” and Trump’s former employee replied, “Yes.”
Johnston told Camerota that he thought Ocasio-Cortez “did an excellent job of examining the witness,” adding that the New York City congresswoman “went right to the point” and “did questions the way a good lawyer or investigative reporter would do.”
Based on his research into Trump’s finances through the years, Johnston said that it is probable that the president:
- Committed bank fraud by inflating asset values when applying for loans,
- Committed insurance fraud by inflating asset values when making claims under policies, and
- Committed tax fraud by deflating asset values for tax purposes.
“He basically makes up numbers to serve his purposes, depending on the situation he’s in,” Johnston said.
The 70-year-old Johnston has been writing about Trump’s finances for decades. He is author of the 2018 book “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America” and the 2016 book “The Making of Donald Trump.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.