June 12, 2024

KT Business

The Business Servicess On for You

Trump got some good financial news this week. But there’s a dark side | Margaret Sullivan

2 min read

Donald Trump has had an encouraging day or two on the money front.

On Monday, a New York appeals panel lowered – to a mere $175m – the amount the former president needs to cough up as he challenges the huge judgment against him in his civil fraud case. It’s not clear whether Trump can obtain such a bond – he has another week or so to try. He couldn’t raise an earlier, much higher sum, but this seems much more likely.

That means it’s possible that he can avoid having liens put on his buildings (his “babies”, as he called them). Welcome news in Trump World.

Then, on Tuesday, his media startup had a wildly successful stock market debut as a public company. Since Trump owns 60% of Trump Media & Technology (which owns Truth Social), his stake is now worth more than $5bn, the Washington Post reported.

That development gave him a big status boost: Bloomberg put him, for the first time, on to its list of the 500 richest people. Still, there’s a hitch; he can’t sell his shares for six months. So the windfall doesn’t help with his immediate challenges.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps singing the blues. He even indirectly compared his troubles to someone else with a large following, praising as “beautiful” this message from a fan: “It’s ironic that Christ walked through His greatest persecution the very week they are trying to steal your property from you.”

I don’t feel concerned for Trump who, after all, is responsible for his thorny situation, despite his claims of victimhood.

But I do worry about America’s national security amid Trump’s financial ups and downs, because they make way for influence-peddling and mischief.

One reason is that major shareholders in Trump Media won’t be forced to publicly and immediately disclose their stakes. That’s potential trouble since we know that Trump’s businesses got millions from foreign governments and officials while he was president.

As Noah Bookbinder, who heads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Post, it’s been obvious for years that he’s open to such influence.

“This seems like an opportunity that is tailor-made for that,” Bookbinder said.

In other words, Trump is – as always – on the make. And his sheer heft of his legal and financial baggage makes that propensity much more dangerous.

Trump’s situation creates “an unprecedented opportunity to buy influence with a leading presidential candidate and a sitting president should he be re-elected”, the non-profit organization wrote in an analysis last month.

Without suggesting any malfeasance, I’ll note one example of overlapping interests: a Republican mega-donor, the billionaire Jeff Yass, was the biggest institutional shareholder of the shell company that merged with Trump’s social media company, according to the New York Times.

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Yass’s firm is also a major investor in the parent company of TikTok; the House of Representatives just passed a bill that would force that Chinese parent company either to sell its popular video app or see it banned in the US.

Despite Trump’s reprieves in recent days, there’s no end in sight for his financial or legal woes. And that’s problematic, not just for him but for the nation.

One reason he is so desperate to be elected again is that he sees the presidency as a marvelous opportunity to line his pockets. Or – if absolutely necessary – to pay his debts, though that’s never his first choice.

Meanwhile, his chatter gets more unhinged every day.

Referring to one all-caps rant that began with “CROOKED POLS!!!” and ended with “WITCH HUNT!”, his former rival Hillary Clinton posed a simple question: “Does this sound like a man who should have access to nuclear codes again?”

As the former secretary of state knows all too well, the answer is clear.

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