Joe Scarborough asked Steve Rattner this morning whether he had any personal experience with Donald Trump's business practices.
"I think what we learned yesterday is that Trump is, obviously, as we suspected, not the businessman we thought. He had massive, massive losses from all the projects we're familiar with. The Plaza Hotel, the eastern shuttled, and of course the famous casinos. So these losses, though, are divided into a couple of pieces," Rattner said.
"There's money he actually lost, and there's also all the gimmicks, all the deductions, that all the the real estate guys get to take to minimize their income. It's really the greatest set of tax loopholes that exists today. And Donald Trump took every advantage of all of them. and then some. And the other thing about Donald Trump is that he was using a lot of other people's money. And that created more tax losses that he could use and it probably -- indirectly, anyway, helped fund his lifestyle. And remember one other thing, Joe. We knew before from David Fahrentholt's wonderful reporting for the Post, from the reporting of what Trump did trying to get wealth down to his kids. The family is guilty of tax evasion. And it goes back to your 500 U.S. attorneys who say if he weren't president, he'd be indicted for obstruction. Donald Trump, if he weren't president, he'd be indicted for tax evasion among other things."
"Are you surprised by the extent of the losses The Times, after comparing to other taxpayers, said perhaps more than any other individual in the United States, he lost more money over that decade?" Scarborough asked.
Rattner said it was a "staggering" amount of money, but we don't know which were actual cash losses that he incurred.
"How much of the losses came from these loopholes and deductions? And there's also a crazy provision where if you have investors and they lose money, you can sometimes take their losses and call them your losses to avoid paying taxes. For ten years, Donald Trump, except for two years, did not pay any taxes because a combination of his -- being a terrible businessman and also using every tool in the book to avoid paying taxes," Rattner said.
"I want to get your smart financial brain to take a crack at President Trump's defense of this story this morning," Willie Geist said. "He writes in part, 'real estate developers, more than 30 years ago, were entitled to massive write-offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases. losses for tax purposes and often to renegotiate with banks. It was sport.' What do you make of that defense?"
"Well, first of all, he's basically acknowledging and bragging about the fact that real estate guys have this set of loopholes that allows them to play by a different set of rules. It gets back to the broader point, about how Americans believe that some wealthy people, and real estate guys at the top of the list, play by a different set of rules than the rest of Americans," Rattner said.
"But secondly, the magnitude of the losses and the way some of them are categorized in the reporting by the New York Times in terms of which line they appear in your tax returns, there's absolutely no question that he lost a massive amount of real money. Some of it is his. A lot of it belonged to other investors. But when you have an eastern shuttle that completely fails, when you have a Plaza Hotel that you lose money on, when you have casinos that go bankrupt, you lose some of your -- you lose your own money. No question about that."
"In his defense, he acknowledges he was using all these loopholes, but his defense seemed to be, everybody was doing it back then. Is that fair to say?" Geist asked.
"I think it's fair to say everybody is still doing it today, to the extent it's legal. And there are more legal loopholes for real estate folks than for any other group of income earners I'm aware of. The question, which we can't answer, based on what we know, is what Donald Trump is -- was he on the wrong side of legal or right side of legal? As I said, with respect to estate taxes, he was on the wrong side of legal. With respect to the foundation, he was on the wrong side of legal. Any other American would have been under severe examination by the IRS for these practices."