President Donald Trump appears to have inflated the value of his three golf resorts in Scotland and Ireland in documents filed with the U.S. government, according to a new examination of six years of financial records in the U.S. and Europe. And the group behind the finding wants the discrepancy investigated as part of a sprawling government probe into the Trump Organization‘s finances.
Trump claimed the resorts — Trump International Golf Links Aberdeen and Trump Turnberry, both in Scotland, and Trump Doonbeg in Ireland — brought in a total of about $179 million in revenue on U.S. documents where he is supposed to list his personal income. Records in the United Kingdom and Ireland indicate the resorts‘ revenues were millions of dollars less — about $152 million — and show they actually lost $77 million after accounting for expenses.
Trump claimed the Scottish resorts alone were worth at least $100 million total in 2018 on U.S. documents, but the U.K. records indicate that the resorts aren’t worth anywhere near that because the debts exceeded the assets by about $80 million that year.
The left-leaning American Democracy Legal Fund, a self-described government watchdog group, is asking Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to look into whether Trump, who repeatedly brags about his wealth, violated the law by filing false documents with the U.S. government to hide the financial health of himself and his company, according to a letter dated Monday obtained by POLITICO. The group is sending a similar letter to the FBI.
Vance indicated in a court filing last week that he is investigating the president for bank and insurance fraud as the prosecutor battles to obtain access to eight years of financial records related to Trump and his businesses.
Trump’s decision to maintain his grip on his sprawling real estate empire — despite his pledge to put his business aside while in the White House — has cast a shadow over his presidency. He faces numerous criminal investigations, lawsuits and congressional inquiries over possible violations of the law as he refuses to turn over financial documents and tax returns. The Supreme Court in July paved the way for Vance to seek Trump’s records, ruling he is not immune from criminal subpoenas while in office.
Trump has long been accused of inflating his income. Last year, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to a series of charges, including tax evasion and campaign finance violations, testified in front of a congressional committee that Trump has repeatedly exaggerated his wealth in financial statements to banks and insurers.
“It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” Cohen said.
A Forbes reporter said Trump went as far as disguising himself as another company official to try to persuade the magazine to list him on its annual ranking of America’s richest people.
The White House, Trump Organization and Trump lawyer Sheri Dillon did not respond to requests for comment about the documents, which are reviewed by the White House and the Office of Government Ethics.
An administration official pointed out an OGE regulation that appears to indicate the White House and the agency would be blameless if a disclosure was in error. “The reviewing official need not audit the report to ascertain whether the disclosures are correct,” according to the regulations. “Disclosures will be taken at ‘face value’ as correct, unless there is a patent omission or ambiguity or the official has independent knowledge of matters outside the report.”
Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his namesake company, which comprises more than 500 businesses and includes properties in nearly two dozen countries, after he was sworn into office. He still owns his business, though he asked his adult sons to run it. His holdings were placed in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit from which he can draw money at any time without the public’s knowledge.
Trump has been required by law to submit assets and income on a personal financial disclosure statement as both a candidate and president since 2015. But he always appears to list his company’s revenue instead, not taking into account expenses or debt, allowing him to hide his company’s losses and his actual income. The United Kingdom and Ireland require businesses registered in their countries to file yearly statements of finances that include revenues, assets and liabilities. The documents are submitted annually, though they are due at different times of the year.
Some records for the three resorts the Trump Organization owns in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland have been examined before but the latest review is more comprehensive, including six years of records from three countries. Pounds and euros were converted into U.S. dollars.
“Our research has uncovered numerous examples of the Trump Organization reporting potentially fraudulent financial details to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in addition to apparent inconsistencies, misstatements, and lies in President Trump’s annual financial disclosure filings regarding its overseas golf courses,” American Democracy Legal Fund President Brad Woodhouse said.
Trump claimed his two resorts in Scotland brought in a total of about $116 million in revenue between 2014 and 2018, according to documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics in which he is supposed to list his personal income. The resorts’ revenue was listed as about $106 million, according to records filed with Companies House, a British government agency that tracks revenue, expenses and profit. But those documents also say the resorts lost about $65 million after accounting for expenses. Turnberry, which Trump visited in 2018, and Aberdeen have not reported a profit for at least five years, according to the U.K. records.
Trump claimed his resort in Ireland, Trump Doonbeg, brought in at least $10.7 million each year in revenue, totaling $62.7 million, between 2014 and 2018, according to U.S. records. The resort’s revenues were less — about $46 million — according to the Ireland Companies Registration Office, and reported a loss each year for a total of $12 million over the same period.
Trump filed his most recent financial disclosure July 31, showing revenues of at least $440 million in 2019, up from $434 million in 2018, though the total could be more because filers use ranges and not specific amounts. Together, the three resorts brought in $43 million, but U.K. and Irish records for 2019 won’t be released until the fall. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence separately visited the resorts in 2019, drawing criticism.
The group’s letters question the values and incomes as well as whether Trump has documented his loans.
He indicated on U.K. records that he and the Trump Organization have given loans to the Scottish resorts, including a $53 million personal loan to the Aberdeen property, that are not listed on his financial disclosures. A filer is required to list personal loans.
In the past, he has reported both personal and business loans. For example, Trump in his financial disclosure has reported he he owes more than $50 million to Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC, a limited liability company in Delaware, part of the Trump Organization,
Kathleen Clark, an ethics lawyer who previously worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and now teaches at Washington University School of Law, said legitimate discrepancies are possible but the massive differences in numbers must be examined.
“That raises flags about whether he’s being accurate on either,” she said. “It begs for an investigation.”