At the heart of President Donald Trump’s success story is this idea: He took a small amount of money — in the form of a loan from his father, Fred — and turned it into billions of dollars.
“My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I fought through it,” Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire way back in October 2015. “It has not been easy for me, it has not been easy for me. And you know I started off in Brooklyn, my father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”
While the idea of Trump portraying himself as some sort of rags-to-riches story was always laughable — his father was a man of considerable means and a $1 million loan is not exactly chump change — it convinced lots and lots of people that Trump was like them. Or, more accurately, what they aspired to be. He was — and is — for many, the living embodiment of the American dream.
Which is why this story published by The New York Times on Tuesday night, which details a series of tax evasions that Trump and his father used over the years is so devastating. The piece is long and hugely detailed, but its most devastating lines — to the idea of the President as, essentially, a self-made man — are these:
“By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.”
And remember that $1 million loan Trump talked so much about on the campaign trail? The Times reports that the total loan by Fred Trump to his son, Donald, was actually $60.7 million or — and brace yourself here — $140 million in today’s money. (The total amount of money Trump received from his father’s holdings is estimated at more than $400 million by the Times).
The truth, as laid bare by the Times reporting, which included reviewing more than 100,000 pages of financial documents, is that Donald Trump was born into a very wealthy family and through a series of complicated tax maneuvers — many of which, at best, skirted the law — was propelled upward by his father’s heavy behind-the-scenes financial support.