To many, it seemed odd that Donald Trump would be interested in trying to make peace with North Korea while he was president. After all, he had once threatened the hermit nation with “fire and fury” if they continued to test nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles that could one day reach the United States.
What was with Trump’s bizarre fascination with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? Did he truly believe he could talk Kim out of his nuclear ambitions?
A report from Forbes suggests that Trump might have been operating out of his own financial interest on behalf of a company that has extensive business ties to North Korea.
Buried in a heap of recently released financial paperwork sits a surprising revelation: Donald Trump had a foreign creditor he failed to disclose while running for president in 2016 and after assuming office in 2017.
The documents, compiled by the Trump Organization and obtained by the New York attorney general, show a previously unreported liability of $19.8 million listed as “L/P Daewoo.” The debt stems from an agreement Trump struck to share some of his licensing fees with Daewoo, a South Korean conglomerate that partnered with Trump on a project near the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
Trump eliminated the debt five-and-a-half months into his tenure as president, according to the documents. He seems to have acted with some urgency to wipe the liability off his balance sheet. From 2011 to 2016, the documents show that the balance stayed static at $19.8 million. Paperwork capturing Trump’s financial picture as of June 30, 2017, five months into his presidency, appears to show that the balance had dropped to $4.3 million, $15.5 million less than it had been a year earlier. Trump got rid of the debt altogether shortly after that. “Daewoo was bought out of its position on July 5, 2017,” the documents say, without specifying who exactly paid off the loan.
Did Daewoo pay off Trump’s debt as some sort of quid pro quo? Such an arrangement might have gone something like this: Trump would agree to hold talks with Kim and ratchet down the incendiary rhetoric he had once used in exchange for the $19.8 million disappearing from the Trump debit sheet.
Amazingly, the fact that Trump owed such a huge sum to a company that does business with North Korea (which U.S. companies are prohibited from doing under federal law and sanctions) may not have actually been illegal, just unethical as hell, Forbes notes.
Although the debt appeared on the Trump Organization’s internal paperwork, it did not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosure reports, documents he was required to submit to federal officials while running for president and after taking office. Trump’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, told the New York Times in 2016 that his boss disclosed all debt connected to companies in which Trump held a 100% stake on the documents. That was not true.
There is a chance that Trump’s omission may have been legal, nonetheless. Although officials have to list personal loans on their financial disclosures, the law does not require them to include loans to their companies, unless they are personally liable for the loans. The Trump Organization documents do not specify whether the former president, who owned 100% of the entities responsible for the debt, personally guaranteed the liability, leaving it unclear whether he broke the law or merely took advantage of a loophole.
How many other countries does Trump and the Trump Organization have with other nations hostile to the United States? It’d be nice to know that before the disgraced former president runs again in 2024, but as of this moment, there is no law requiring him to release a full accounting of his business dealings, meaning that he could be an ever bigger threat to American national security than we ever imagined.