President Trump has updated his personal financial disclosure report from last year, and here NPR updates our December 2016 analysis of that earlier report.
The new filing, published by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), adds some insight into the president's sprawling business network. But not too much insight. Trump's Form 278, or "executive branch personnel public financial disclosure report," by no means gives a complete picture of his wealth, and his financial strengths and weaknesses.
That's not what the report is meant to do.
"What the 278 is designed to do is detect conflicts of interest," said Stuart Gilman, former special assistant to the OGE director. So it discloses revenue, and estimates value, for each of Trump's hundreds of business entities. But it is silent on their expenses. And there's nothing on taxes, which Trump has refused to release elsewhere. The form requires disclosure of transactions that exceed $1,000, and gifts worth more than $375, but Trump reported nothing in either category.
As Gilman said, "An accountant would go crazy with this."
Three things are worth noting about the numbers released on Friday:
- First, Trump didn't have to do this; his next disclosure isn't required until May 2018.
- Second, his lawyers wanted to file the report without his signature, which certifies the information is "true, complete and correct to the best of your knowledge." The Office of Government Ethics insisted on the signature.
- And third, Trump's reports are unlike those of any other president. Since disclosure was mandated in 1978, all other chief executives have put their wealth into blind trusts or taken other steps to avoid conflicts of interest. Trump moved most of his companies into a trust, but he made himself the sole beneficiary of the trust, and the businesses in the trust are managed by his two oldest sons and a longtime business associate.
Finding trends across Trump's 2016 and 2017 reports is impossible because they cover different lengths of time. The latest report shows assets and revenues from January 2016 through April 15, 2017. The previous one covered the period from January 2015 through May 15, 2016.
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