Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, 2016
Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking during the Iowa Caucuses, January 9, 2016. Photo credit: Evan Guest / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Donald Trump’s legal problems continue. On Thursday, an ethics group filed a criminal complaint with the FBI and DOJ alleging that the former president lied on financial disclosure forms.

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An ethics watchdog filed a criminal complaint against Donald Trump on Thursday that alleges the former president lied on his financial disclosure reports.

At issue is whether Trump “knowingly and willfully” made false statements about a $50 million debt he owed to one of his businesses in Chicago. For years, he listed it as a liability on his disclosure forms.

However, a court-appointed monitor in a civil fraud case said she was told this loan “never existed,” according to the complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

Since Trump signed the disclosure forms saying that the information they contained was “true, complete and correct to the best of [his] knowledge,” this would constitute a violation of the Ethics in Government Act that carries a civil penalty of up to $50,000 and imprisonment up to a year. 

“Donald Trump has a long history of lying about his finances, but there’s a big difference between lying about them in the press and lying about them on a government disclosure,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “This isn’t his normal puffery. This is another potential violation of criminal law.”

In its complaint, the group states that the loan may have been part of a debt-restructuring deal that Trump undertook in 2012. 

“It is not clear why Mr. Trump would have reported a non-existent loan as a liability owed to one of his own companies, but some reporting suggests that the deal could be part of a tax-avoidance scheme, known as debt parking, that has been used by taxpayers to purchase debt and then leave it in a separately-owned entity rather than incur tax liability on debt which has been forgiven, while others theorize that the loan may be owed to a secret third party,” the complaint said. 

Noting that the court-appointed monitor in the civil fraud case said the Trump Organization told her that this loan never existed, CREW suggests this could be the case here.

The creditor listed on the disclosure forms is the “Chicago Acquisition Unit LLC,” which is wholly owned by Trump. 

Therefore, the group noted, even though the loan is listed as a liability on one part of the form, it is not included as an asset in another part. 

The only other time Chicago Acquisition Unit LLC appeared on one of Trump’s forms is in 2015, when it was valued at no more than $15,000. 

Because of these inconsistencies, CREW is urging the federal government to look into the matter. 

“No one is above the law. The rules that apply to everyone else in the executive branch must also apply to Donald Trump,” Bookbinder said. “The FBI and DOJ must investigate.”


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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