MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said the bombshell New York Times report on President Donald Trump's taxes may help explain why he "bowed and scraped" before Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The president entered office promising not to pursue new foreign deals, but his tax records reveal that he took in $73 million from abroad, and "Morning Joe" panelists dug into those damning allegations.
"The amount of money he's taken from foreign governments and that money, whether it came from the Philippines or Turkey, is greater than the amount of money he's taken, say, from his salary as president," said New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, whose colleagues investigated the tax records. "Taking more money from foreign countries than he's taking from his own country as president. There's a reason why, whether it's the counterintelligence world or whether it is just the sort of business ethics world or traditional way that people in the government are supposed to function, that you don't want people in government taking so much money from foreign countries, and sort of the influence that can have on someone."
That influence could be significant, Schmidt said, considering the $421 million debt the president must repay before the end of his second term, if re-elected.
"He has this $70 million, $80 million or so dispute with the IRS about whether he's going to have to pay back this money that he took as a refund from them, a refund that some would say is questionable," Schmidt said, "and he still has this dispute with the IRS. Remember, he's the president, he can control who's in charge of the IRS. It's not entirely clear to me how that would be resolved, but he could be on the hook for that. At the same time he's on the hook for that, he looks like he's on the hook for $400 million in loans, that it's not really clear how he would pay those back either. So this entire picture, the president is moving himself, as a business man, in towards a very vulnerable place where his own IRS could come calling for a lot of money that he may not have."
Scarborough said that could explain the president's apparent subservience to the Russian president.
"That's obviously what a lot of people have been investigating through the years, is he perhaps as kind as he is to Vladimir Putin, as deferential to Vladimir Putin, kowtowing in the presence of Vladimir Putin in Helsinki," Scarborough said, turning to Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire. "You asked him, and he bowed and scraped in front of Vladimir Putin, why is he acting the way he is towards Turkey, the Philippines. We're seeing now he's getting more money from countries like Turkey and the Philippines than he is from the American people in his salary. But you've been looking at this for years, studying it for your years -- what's your takeaway from the reporting you read over the last 24 hours?"
Lemire agreed the report raised serious concerns about national security, because the president relies on foreign income streams and faces a tremendous debt obligation in the next four years.
"That is why so many Democrats last night, in their initial reaction to the story, were framing it as a national security matter, a national security threat," Lemire said. "Though the story does not indicate, so far the tax returns don't show any further unknown investment from Russia, certainly we are seeing influence of foreign governments here in terms of money with the president, and is that shaping his foreign policy decisions and performance. That's something that's going to require extraordinary scrutiny for the rest of his time in office."
"Also the loan, the money coming due, many of them before the end of his second term," Lemire added. "That's another matter that requires extraordinary diligence to see who does, in fact, he owe that money, whether foreign or domestic, how does that impact his day-to-day operations in the White House?"