The blockbuster New York Times report on President Donald Trump reveals scandalous activity -- but it doesn't disprove his claims about being a billionaire.
The report examines the president's tax records and other documents that showed Trump paid almost nothing in taxes over the past 18 years, but Forbes senior editor Dan Alexander said the story's importance has been overshadowed by questions about the president's wealth.
"The news is not that the president is broke (the Times story notes that tax returns do not list someone’s net worth)," Alexander wrote. "The news, instead, is that Donald Trump seems to have avoided paying much in taxes despite significant operating profits at certain properties. In other words, he figured out how to share very little of his fortune with the country he now leads."
Alexander, author of "White House Inc.," has calculated the president's net worth at about $2.5 billion, with assets totaling $3.7 billion and debts standing at roughly $1.13 billion.
"Trump has previously proclaimed himself the 'king of debt,' a nickname that fit early in his career, as he teetered toward bankruptcy, and more recently as president, as he has accumulated massive federal budget deficits," Alexander wrote. "As a businessman, Trump has played it a bit safer lately. No doubt, his estimated $1.1 billion in debt is a tremendous amount of leverage. But considering Trump’s $3.7 billion in assets, most of his bankers should still be able to sleep at night."
But that doesn't mean Trump is free and clear in the eyes of the law, Alexander wrote.
"Donald Trump has long prided himself on gaming the tax system," he wrote. “'Makes me smart,' he famously declared in a 2016 presidential debate. It also might make him vulnerable to investigators scouring his financial picture."
The president has employed some "fancy accounting tricks and financial maneuvers" to avoid paying taxes most years, and only $750 a year when he does write a check to the government, but Alexander says that's the real scandal.
"The scandal isn’t that he’s broke and paying those meager sums," Alexander wrote. "It’s that he remains quite rich."