Donald Trump’s business attracted so much scrutiny during his time in office that it would be easy to conclude that all information about its foreign entanglements must be out by now. It is not. Buried in a heap of recently released financial paperwork sits a surprising revelation: Donald Trump had a foreign creditor he failed to disclose while running for president in 2016 and after assuming office in 2017.
The documents, compiled by the Trump Organization and obtained by the New York attorney general, show a previously unreported liability of $19.8 million listed as “L/P Daewoo.” The debt stems from an agreement Trump struck to share some of his licensing fees with Daewoo, a South Korean conglomerate that partnered with Trump on a project near the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
Trump eliminated the debt five-and-a-half months into his tenure as president, according to the documents. He seems to have acted with some urgency to wipe the liability off his balance sheet. From 2011 to 2016, the documents show that the balance stayed static at $19.8 million. Paperwork capturing Trump’s financial picture as of June 30, 2017, five months into his presidency, appears to show that the balance had dropped to $4.3 million, $15.5 million less than it had been a year earlier. Trump got rid of the debt altogether shortly after that. “Daewoo was bought out of its position on July 5, 2017,” the documents say, without specifying who exactly paid off the loan.
Although the debt appeared on the Trump Organization’s internal paperwork, it did not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosure reports, documents he was required to submit to federal officials while running for president and after taking office. Trump’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told the New York Times in 2016 that his boss disclosed all debt connected to companies in which Trump held a 100% stake on the documents. That was not true.
There is a chance that Trump’s omission may have been legal, nonetheless. Although officials have to list personal loans on their financial disclosures, the law does not require them to include loans to their companies, unless they are personally liable for the loans. The Trump Organization documents do not specify whether the former president, who owned 100% of the entities responsible for the debt, personally guaranteed the liability, leaving it unclear whether he broke the law or merely took advantage of a loophole.
There’s little doubt that if the world had known about the debt while Trump was president, it would have sparked conflicts-of-interest concerns, perhaps heightened by Daewoo’s historical ties to North Korea. [Continue reading…]