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George Santos’s No Good, Very Bad First Day In Congress

The new congressman doesn’t seem to be having a lot of fun.

Representative George Santos stands in the House chamber, looking sullen.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

It was George Santos’s first day in Washington Tuesday, and it seems like his reliable political chops and gravitational charm are not working quite yet. While the serial liar, and now representative, has apparently enjoyed some allyship from Marjorie Taylor Greene, he wasn’t otherwise seen doing much socializing.

As members of Congress steered clear of fraternizing with the guy whose identity we just can’t be sure of, he didn’t seem keen to talk to the people giving him the most attention: members of the press.

Appearing less like a man trying to make a splash on his first day on the hill, and more like a man advised by his lawyer to remain silent, Santos certainly isn’t projecting confidence to voters, or even to people wondering if he deserves to be in Congress at all.

After being royally exposed for lie after lie during the past few weeks, Santos has shown no intention of resigning, and the Republican caucus overall hasn’t made any substantial indication of what they will do. It’s a bit concerning for such an unflappable liar to just be sitting in Congress like a bored middle schooler.

Meanwhile, Santos is facing reopened criminal charges in Brazil for allegedly stealing the checkbook of an elderly man his mother was taking care of as a nurse, and using it to buy some $1,300 worth of clothes and shoes.

Santos also faces legal scrutiny stateside. The congressman-elect recently came into an irregularly quick and massive fortune, and loaned more than $700,000 to his campaign. As a result, both federal and local authorities are probing into Santos’s campaign and financial dealings. So while we can’t seem to address Santos’s almost-criminal level of lying, he may be charged with actual gross criminality.

Kevin McCarthy Spent an Entire Day Losing Votes for House Speaker

After three rounds of voting, it’s not clear what his plan is for securing the gavel.

Kevin McCarthy speaks at a podium.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Not only did Kevin McCarthy lose three rounds of votes Tuesday to become speaker of the House, but he also lost votes in the process.

In the first two ballots, McCarthy received only 203 votes out of the 222 seats his Republican Party holds in the House of Representatives. In the third round, he got 202 votes after Representative Byron Donalds switched his ballot.

McCarthy and his allies have been scrambling in the past couple months to amass the 218 votes necessary to secure the gavel. But he clearly thought he had the speakership on lock, telling Punchbowl News he was confident he would win by the second round of voting.

The California representative also refused to recess between votes on Tuesday to try to whip up the support he needs. Rather than try and make deals with his 19 staunch opponents, McCarthy seemed to believe that continuing to sit and mingle in the chamber as the session dragged on would do the trick.

The House adjourned after the third round of voting, leaving McCarthy to strategize (and stew) until the session resumes the following day.

Here are the 19 Republicans who have consistently voted against McCarthy’s bid for speakership.

  • Andy Biggs
  • Dan Bishop
  • Lauren Boebert
  • Josh Brecheen
  • Michael Cloud
  • Andrew Clyde
  • Eli Craine
  • Matt Gaetz
  • Bob Good
  • Paul Gosar
  • Andy Harris
  • Anna Paulina Luna
  • Mary Miller
  • Ralph Norman
  • Andy Ogles
  • Scott Perry
  • Matt Rosendale
  • Chip Roy
  • Keith Self

Republicans Remove Metal Detectors Installed in the Capitol After January 6

It’s been two years since the Capitol was attacked, and instead of rejecting the extremism that led to it, Republicans still have room for it.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. Capitol Police install a metal detector outside the House of Representatives Chamber on January 12, 2021.

Republicans opened their new House majority by removing metal detectors installed after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

While much of the spotlight on Tuesday is on the House speaker’s gavel, the first convening of the 118th Congress also marks the persistence of an extremist politics that existentially threatened members of Congress just two years ago.

The metal detectors’ removal is just an emblem of this Republican-led Congress’s ambitions, which include things like seeking more information about perennial boogeyman Hunter Biden’s laptop. House Republicans have focused much of their January 6-related attention not on the attacks themselves but instead on how attackers were treated after being arrested.

More broadly, scores of Republicans either dismiss or even promote the extremism that led to January 6. Some have called investigations into the attacks “witch hunts.” One of the newly elected members, Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden, even used campaign money to fund his own trip to the January 6 riots, where he proudly joined the attackers.

And yet Van Orden joins other far-right Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene in supporting Kevin McCarthy for House speaker; while Greene has spent substantial airtime defending the Republican leader, Van Orden joined 53 other “Only Kevin” Republicans expressing sole support for McCarthy as speaker.

In his attempts to curry favor with detractors, McCarthy has proposed numerous rule changes, including one that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. While his efforts haven’t yet convinced his opposition, it just goes to show that the folly of conservative governance will plague this Congress no matter who gets the gavel.

Agenda items already parroted most by Republican members are mostly steeped in conspiracy and cynicism. And their first major action, even without a House speaker, was to make it easier to bring weapons into the Capitol. So while there may be an entertaining element to the “Republicans in Disarray” narrative, one thing is unfortunately certain: The corrupt, dangerous far right will maintain stride in this Congress.

Kevin McCarthy Loses Speaker Vote in Historic Wave of Not Being Liked by His Own Party

This is the first time in 100 years that a majority party's nominee failed to win House speaker in the first round of voting. Congrats to Kevin McCarthy for making history by losing twice.

Kevin McCarthy buries his face in his fist in frustration last January.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It’s been a bad day for Kevin McCarthy, who lost two rounds of votes Tuesday to be speaker of the House, an outcome unseen in a century that threatens to unleash chaos as representatives rush to make deals.

The California Republican has made no secret of his desire to be speaker of the House, but he and his allies have been scrambling in the past few months to amass the votes necessary to win the gavel. Alabama Representative Mike Rogers went so far as to threaten to ban anyone who votes against McCarthy from sitting on a committee.

But McCarthy won a mere 203 votes out of the 222 his party holds in both rounds of ballots. His Democratic challenger Hakeem Jeffries won 211 and then 212 votes, consistent with party lines.

The two are now in a floor fight, or an instance when it takes multiple rounds of voting to pick a speaker. It will continue for as many rounds as are necessary to fill the position.

In Congress’s 200-year history, there have only been 14 instances in which it took more than two ballots to confirm the House speaker. The last one was exactly 100 years ago. It took nine rounds of votes to resolve that battle.

Lawmakers can adjourn between rounds of votes to try to compromise. But it’s still not clear if McCarthy can make enough deals to finally get what he wants.

Five lawmakers, who have dubbed themselves the “Never Kevin Five,” have sworn not to vote for him no matter what. Another seven also seem unlikely to come around, according to Time. The holdouts don’t trust McCarthy and consider him too wishy-washy on issues that are important to them, such as impeaching President Joe Biden, and too likely to bend in order to stay in power.

Congress cannot move forward until the speakership is filled, so the voting will continue until someone wins. McCarthy can still pull it off, but it will be a vicious slog.

This piece has been updated.

Is the NFL Lying About Wanting to Keep Playing After Damar Hamlin Collapsed?

When Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, there were reports that players would have five minutes to warm up and then resume the game.

Damar Hamlin #31 of the Buffalo Bills on the sideline
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

On Monday evening, 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during a late-season matchup between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. As the athlete lay motionless on the turf receiving CPR, tens of thousands of fans went silent, players buried their heads in their hands in despair, and the Bills team knelt in prayer for their fallen comrade.

Hamlin collapsed right before 9 p.m.; an ambulance arrived to administer CPR around 9:03. At 9:17, officials announced the game would be temporarily suspended. The game was not announced to be fully suspended until 10 p.m., an hour after Hamlin first collapsed on the field. Hamlin remains in critical condition after what was deemed cardiac arrest.

After the collapse, and before the game was suspended, ESPN’s Joe Buck repeatedly stated that players would have five minutes to warm up in order to resume play. There even is a shot of the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback tossing a football, keeping his arm loose. “They’ve been given five minutes to quote unquote get ready to go back to playing,” Buck said. “That’s the word we get from the league and the word we get from down on the field.”

The report of a five-minute warm-up was also repeated elsewhere, including on ESPN Deportes and Westwood Radio, noted journalist Timothy Burke.

NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent claimed ignorance in a conference call hours later. “Five-minute warm-up never crossed my mind, personally. And I was the one … communicating with the commissioner,” Vincent said. “We never, frankly, it never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play. That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that we should ever be in.”

It is certainly possible that there may have been miscommunication. But the ambiguity of what exactly happened offers another illustration of the struggle between the players and a league hungry to leach out as much as they can from them, even as the world watches one of them fall. After all, it seems the NFL was not eager to suspend the game in the first place:

This, while the NFL claimed the NFL Players Association was “in agreement with postponing the game,” feigning the idea that the league was leading the charge to stop play. We can be generous while we seek clarity about what exactly happened. But we ought not take statements from the NFL—which has allowed an alarming number of its players to develop brain degeneration and is famous for suppressing sexual assault claims against both players and executives—at face value. So the question stands: Is the NFL lying about how much it tried to stop the game after a player collapsed?

More on Sports

Even Kevin McCarthy Knows He Doesn’t Have the Votes for House Speaker

McCarthy and his allies are scrambling to get enough votes to confirm him as speaker of the House, reportedly even threatening that Republicans who vote against him will lose committee assignments.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gestures with his hands and speaks at a podium. (He looks distressed.)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The House of Representatives will choose its new speaker Tuesday, and it currently seems that Kevin McCarthy does not have enough votes to win the gavel.

The California Republican has made no secret of his desire to be speaker of the House. But even though he is backed by former President Donald Trump and far-right Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, things don’t look good for him.

McCarthy appeared confident he would win, laughing off the idea that his number two, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, would be selected speaker instead.

But McCarthy and his allies are scrambling to amass all the votes necessary. In a meeting Tuesday morning, Alabama Representative Mike Rogers reportedly threatened to ban anyone who votes against McCarthy from sitting on a committee.

Republicans hold only nine more seats in the House, and McCarthy needs a majority—218 votes—in order to be elected speaker. Five Republicans, the self-dubbed “Never Kevin Five,” have already vowed not to support him. One of the five, Representative Andy Biggs, is challenging McCarthy for speakership. It’s highly unlikely he will win, but he could draw more votes away from McCarthy.

Democrats, who will put forward Hakeem Jeffries, will definitely vote against McCarthy. If neither McCarthy nor Jeffries wins an outright majority, it will trigger a so-called “floor fight”: repeated rounds of votes until someone wins. It would be the first floor fight in 100 years. It’s unclear if the chamber will recess between votes so representatives can attempt to make deals.

Congress cannot move forward until a speaker is elected. The House cannot approve a rules package for the new session or committee leadership. Politico also reported that if the speakership isn’t filled by January 13, committee staffers would have to go without pay.

McCarthy could still pull it off: Only named votes, meaning only ballots that have a name written on them, are counted. If any representatives choose to abstain or only vote “present,” then their votes are no longer included in the overall total, which lowers the final amount needed to win. However, any ballots that choose a write-in candidate—such as Biggs—would count toward the total.

Nancy Pelosi won with only 216 votes in 2021, and her predecessor, John Boehner, also won with 216 in 2015.

If he does win, McCarthy has already promised to unleash a raft of unproductive and even harmful measures, such as an investigation into Hunter Biden, anti-LGBTQ policy, and a cut to aid for Ukraine.

More on Politics

Yet Another Republican Commits Voter Fraud

An upstate New York elections official becomes the latest in a long line of conservatives to perpetrate the very crime they claim is being done against them.

Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

Jason T. Schofield, the elections commissioner for Rensselaer County in upstate New York, is set to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in the New Year after being accused of leading a plot to cast votes in at least eight other people’s names without their permission.

According to the Times Union, the notice of Schofield’s change-of-plea hearing was filed on December 13—just hours before the Republican-led Rensselaer County Legislature voted 16–2 to reappoint Schofield to a second term as election commissioner. This, after Schofield had already been facing federal criminal charges since September.

In September, the FBI arrested Schofield on accusations that the county elections commissioner was fraudulently applying for absentee ballots in the names of people who didn’t request ballots or Schofield’s assistance, or didn’t know that Schofield was using their personal information. The indictment alleged that Schofield brought ballots to voters, took possession of some ballots himself, and had voters sign ballot envelopes but not actually vote—enabling him to cast votes in the voters’ names.

Schofield’s plea agreement includes his pledge to cooperate in the federal investigation that is examining the use of county resources and employees to gather absentee ballots.

The election fraudster was appointed to the county elections commission back in April 2018, after resigning from the Troy City School District Board of Education, where the Times Union reports he spent 15 years as a board member and seven years as president.

Other officials are also being targeted by the investigation, including two Rensselaer County employees—one described by insiders as a GOP operative, another an assistant for county Executive Steve McLaughlin, who was indicted last year on campaign finance felony charges. The investigation has also led to the guilty plea of former Republican Troy City Councilwoman Kimberly Ashe-McPheron, for fraudulently submitting absentee ballots in last year’s primary and general elections.

The remarkably ever-widening scale of the upstate investigation follows a wider trend of Republican officials and voters being guilty of the phantasmal voter fraud they so often fearmonger about.

Read more at Times Union.

Why Didn’t the IRS Finish Its Trump Tax Audit?

The release of the former president’s returns raises questions about the agency’s failure to apply the same scrutiny to which other chief executives have been subjected.

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
The exterior of the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump’s newly released tax returns confirm that the IRS failed to start auditing him until two years into his presidency. One of the larger questions that arises from this disclosure is whether there was a reasonable explanation for why an audit wasn’t carried out in a timely fashion, or whether the former president perverted the functions of government to suit his own needs.

Trump repeatedly (convolutedly, and ridiculously) insisted that he couldn’t release his tax returns because they were under audit. But as it turns out, that wasn’t really the case. The House Ways and Means Committee revealed last week that the IRS actually failed to audit Trump until 2019, despite a program that makes auditing sitting presidents mandatory. Those audits are still not completed.

What’s more, the IRS did not even begin auditing Trump’s tax returns until April 3, coincidentally the same day the committee Chair Richard Neal sent the agency a written request for the records.

In the IRS’s defense, the agency is chronically understaffed. But it might have been trying to stay out of the maelstrom of controversy surrounding Trump’s taxes, noted Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

As Bookbinder explained in The Atlantic, though, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that “Trump used the levers of government to shield himself from scrutiny.”

Trump appointed several allies at the IRS over his term. He’s certainly no stranger to using his political powers to protect himself and his cronies. An analysis of his tax returns by the Joint Committee on Taxation appears to indicate Trump used his office to steer federal business to his own companies. He and other government officials would also stay at his hotels while traveling abroad.

The IRS seems to have selectively struggled to carry out its audits of recent presidents; the agency demonstrated itself to be fully capable of conducting thorough annual audits on Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But when it finally got around to Trump, the audit was initially assigned to just one employee—a doubly puzzling choice given the nature of the real estate mogul’s complicated business holdings.

So what really happened? It’s possible that the Senate, which will remain under control of the Democrats, might pursue an investigation. If this inquiry takes as long as the one that only finally got Trump’s tax returns released this week, we could be waiting quite a while for answers. Either way, this is not a good look for Trump—or the IRS.

“The Worst Time of My Life”: A Buffalo Blizzard Hero Speaks Out

A Q&A with Shaquille Jones, the New Yorker who pitched in to save lives as a destructive winter storm ripped through his community.

Joed Viera/Getty Images
Vehicles are seen abandoned in heavy snowfall in downtown Buffalo, New York, on December 26.

As a calamitous blizzard devastated upstate New York, leaving at least 39 dead and thousands without power, government agencies fell short, leaving citizens to largely fend for themselves and each other. One of these citizens was Shaquille Jones: Days after being stuck in the snow himself for 18 hours—on the cusp of fatal frostbite—he chose to do his part helping others in his community by delivering supplies, serving as an ersatz taxi driver, and wielding his jumper cables on the behalf of hundreds of his neighbors. He even helped save a snowed-in couple and their 1-year-old baby, who was in dire need of a ventilator. At one point during his rounds, someone with authority finally arrived on the scene—to tow away the truck he had borrowed for his mission. (Jones was forced to pay out of pocket to get it back).

I was able to reach Jones by phone on Friday morning; he took me through what he saw as he operated in what amounted to a winter-weather war zone—scattered bodies, abandoned and snowed-in vehicles, and little institutional help to find anywhere.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Take us through your past week.

My mom, sister, and two nieces were getting food for the storm, and they got stuck. I borrowed a buddy’s truck to come down and get them, and then we got stuck. I called the police maybe after two hours. They said they were sending someone to help us. At this time, the snow was—you couldn’t be out there; it was ridiculous, you couldn’t see anything, you couldn’t do anything. So we sat there for about another two hours. So we’re four hours in, and I called again; they’re like, “We’re sending someone, we’re sending someone,” and nobody came. So, seven hours rolls around: “We’re sending someone”; 10 hours roll around: “We’re sending someone”; 15 hours roll around: “We’re sending someone.” 

Finally, here’s 18 hours. We’re still sitting there, and the snow is covering the doors, so we can’t get out and it was almost going to cover the windows. At this moment, we had to make a decision: We’re gonna either sit here and we’re gonna die in this car—because we’re freezing—or we’re gonna get out and try to run for it. We’re either going to sit there and die, or die trying to get to help. My sister has a broken leg, she was on crutches. My niece, for some reason, had no coat on. So at this moment, we get out of the car, it’s about four o’clock in the morning. The snow was still coming down, it was a whiteout; you can’t see anything. It was really bad. We had to get out the window, slide down the snow, and we walked for 20 minutes to the hospital in minus 20 degree weather with 80 mph wind.

The doctor said if we were out there at least one more minute, I would have died because my blood flow had stopped because it was so cold. We had frostbite, we had to get wrapped, it was horrible.

We stayed in that hospital for a day and a half, two days. I got a buddy to finally come pick me up, he got me home to my family on Christmas Day about maybe five or six in the morning. After my kids were done opening their gifts, I decided to go back out. I haven’t seen them for days after that. I’ve been out rescuing people that needed to be rushed to the hospital because the police said they are not coming.

So I’ve rescued hundreds of people, saving them, getting them to help, seeing people 50 years old, 90 years old in the house for hours with no heat, frostbitten; a baby that I saved was on a ventilator that had no electricity; they were hand-pumping their baby to have them breathe. That was by far the worst thing I’ve ever had to do in my life: pump a baby while walking through snow to try to get them to some type of electricity. We opened up a building for heat and food and baby clothing. I have not taken money from anyone. I done it all for free. They were asking me if I could put up my cash app for donations for food, so I did do that and [went] to the supermarket and got a bunch of food, diapers, you know, any supplies that can help out. We have been delivering ever since. 

I went back up to the truck that I borrowed. And they just took it, right before I pulled up. I had to pay $350 to get the truck back. The truck was damaged, I have to pay for out of pocket. It was the worst week of my life.

Wow. And that tow fee—here you are, trying to help the community, and you come back to that.

Yeah, the thing about that is I don’t believe that they care. The way New York State went about even ticketing people with the driving ban and stuff like that is beyond me. How could you do this to people after a natural disaster? Why would you? I understand you have to get paid, I understand you’re running a company. But come on, I mean 300-some odd dollars. That’s insane.

I understand others began to help you as well, right? Who were they, and how did they get involved? What have you been doing together?

Well, first of all, one of them was a stranger I’ve never met in my life. He came down to Buffalo inside the storm the same day I got stuck and got into the hospital, he came down to try and rescue me. And this is a guy that I have never met in my entire life. He heard that I was stuck, and he said, “Man, I’m going to get this guy no matter what.” This guy didn’t have a dime in his pocket, and I didn’t know this. If he would have told me this, I would have told him not to come, but this guy made an effort when nobody else made an effort. I’m just so grateful for him. His name is Tayron Knight from Niagara Falls. He’s been with me ever since. A guy whose nickname is JC, that’s my wife’s cousin. A Buffalo Police officer that came out after we got to the baby—he’s been going ever since. And it was about four or five of us. Pharoah Page from Buffalo, New York, who opened up his skating rink for heat, and groceries, and food for the people to come. So, it is good people that I had involved with me—thank God, because at first I was alone, I was by myself, but when we rescued that baby and people saw that, they started wanting to get more involved.

So you’ve been delivering and purchasing supplies, driving people around. What other things have you guys been doing?

Yep, so we’ve been purchasing supplies, getting people to hospitals, jumping cars. We still are out here; my phone is like a 911 hotline. And I hope people know that anytime that they call me, I will be there. 

But we dealt with so much racism and [inaction]. My buddy went into the gas station, and he asked to use the bathroom, and the guy told him, “Not for your kind.” It really was a bad situation—he told me after we left, and that really hurt me to the core. I stopped, went to get a guy out of his house. It was a bigger guy. And the National Guard was standing there, like maybe a block up. I said, “Man, I really could use your guys’ help, please, you know help me get this guy out of his house and take him to the hospital, I can put him in the back of my truck to take him to the hospital.”  This guy told me, “Unfortunately we’re not EMS.” 

I said, “Well, you don’t have to be EMS. I just need a couple of hands please.” This guy told me unfortunately, he had to get his partner some lunch, so he won’t be able to assist. The government, man, I don’t know what’s going on with the New York state government, I feel as though they did leave us behind, they left a lot of people in trouble and stranded. I don’t understand, all this stuff should have been more prepared. It’s really a shame. And I’m really going through it—I’m having flashbacks and stuff, I’ve seen so many people dead in the snow, in their car, not alert. It was a mess. I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life.

Tell me more about that, the things that have been frustrating you. 

It’s just trauma. Seeing people throwing up blood and you got to take them to the hospital; 70-year-old ladies sitting in their cars for hours because they don’t have any heat, and the police are not coming. You can’t call for help. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people without electricity. It was a nightmare. You couldn’t call anyone, so I made myself available for them to call. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I did that. 

But I would do it all over again—no matter the trauma that I’ve seen … people laying dead in the snow and walking past their bodies, tapping on the window and they’re dead and locked inside the car. It was rough, so now I’m dealing with trying to mentally prepare myself to stay on the right track; you know, stay focused.

How do you think things could have gone better? Where did things go wrong?

I really think the government dropped the ball on getting people here fast enough for the storm. I understand because of the driving ban, but you have [hundreds of thousands] of people in Buffalo that needed food who couldn’t get to it right away. Just because people make mistakes doesn’t mean you don’t go rescue them. You know officers took an oath … all these people that get paid from tax dollars … there was no one. They say we are not coming. The firefighters were out helping—I’m not sure about the police. I really didn’t see any police out. It was just—they wasn’t prepared. And it left people dying.

You’ve mentioned different ways this has impacted your mental well-being—could you talk a bit more about that, if you’re comfortable? 

Yeah, it’s just basically having flashbacks of what’s been going on this past week. It was like back-to-back-to-back-to-back issues with people not breathing, and babies, and it was just traumatizing. I can’t believe that I had to literally pump a baby—if I [had done] it the wrong way the baby could die. When I first started, [the mother] was like, “You have to pump it like this, on time, or you know the baby will cough and he will lose breath.” I messed up one time and it shattered me—I was so broken because I thought that this baby was not gonna make it. 

I’m still having flashbacks from, you know, just seeing the bodies—and bodies are still popping up all over the news. Buffalo, New York, will never, ever, be the same.

Is there anything that has been giving you hope or enlivening you throughout all this chaos and sadness?

I just think about my kids. What if that was my babies—my kids would not have made it, would not have made it in that storm. I barely made it. I’m telling you, my legs were purple, my arms were purple, my hands were purple. It was like something that you see in a movie—when we got to the hospital, everything was frozen: my eyebrows, my hair was ice. I couldn’t barely talk. It was the worst time of my life. And I just—God kept me going. Once I got better, I said, you know what? There’s people out here going through what I just went through. These people need help: Go. My family wasn’t too happy about it. But once I did it, they were like, “Oh, OK, we understand.” There’s nothing else I would have done differently.

Three Quick Takeaways From Donald Trump’s Long-Awaited Tax Returns

One reason he might have been eager to keep these records under wraps is that they don’t exactly paint the picture of a business genius.

Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

The House Ways and Means Committee released six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns Friday, after a protracted battle by the former president to prevent that from happening. Trump famously refused to release them during the 2016 presidential election; doing so is not a legal requirement but has long been the norm. The Treasury Department turned over these records to the committee in November.

The committee reviewed Trump’s tax returns primarily from his time in office. Here are three major initial takeaways.

Loans and donations: Trump made repeated large charitable donations and loaned his three adult children either $51,000 or $46,000 for each of the six years covered in the returns.

Donations and loans are tax-deductible, which means they can reduce the amount of total income that can be taxed. But the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation raised concerns that both Trump’s loans and donations should have been subject to taxes. Trump didn’t have taxable income from 2015-2017, meaning any deductions he received for charitable donations or loans would carry forward and be applied in later years. He did have taxable income in 2018 and 2019, so he would benefit from previous deductions.

The taxation committee also raised concerns that the loans to his children were really gifts, which should have been taxed.

Sales: Each year except 2019, Trump listed millions of dollars in cost of goods sold, or the amount spent on getting products to customers, from his corporation DJT Holdings, LLC. The cost of goods sold is tax-deductible, which again would drive down his taxable income at the end of the year.

The returns do not specify which assets DJT Holdings had sold, but IRS audit files indicate that the company appeared to sell residential and hotel units. Real estate holdings are not considered inventory, so costs related to their sale are not eligible for tax deductions.

Losses:  In 2016 and 2017, Trump and his wife Melania paid $750 or less in federal income tax. They paid $0 in 2020. Trump paid taxes in the other three years, but at a far lower rate than the average taxpayer. Part of the reason why was because he listed millions of dollars in losses.

He reported a gross negative income of $53.2 million over the six years covered in the tax returns. Tax law allows taxpayers to carry losses over to another year, reducing the amount of taxable income. Trump repeatedly carried over his massive reported losses, dramatically reducing the amount of overall taxes he had to pay each year. Fittingly, Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, summarized Trump’s tax returns for The Los Angeles Times like so: “He’s a staggering loser.”