Explanatory Note: The Steady State was founded because former senior members of the U.S. national security community see Donald Trump as a danger to the democracy of this country. The threat he poses to our democracy intensifies every day of this election cycle.

We have seen autocrats in other countries steal elections and destroy their democracies. Imagining what Trump and his campaign looks like to other countries, especially longtime allies, illustrates exactly how dangerous Trump and his Senate and media allies are to the United States. Until November 3, 2020, The Steady State will write reports that reflect what we see as the current president of the United States follows the autocrat’s playbook more and more closely, and will mimic what we would be writing back to our own leaders, if this were happening in another country. Again, the reports are based on our own experiences watching candidates in other countries undermine legitimate elections with lies and violence. We have chosen to present the writings as coming from the Ambassador and Secret Service of an imaginary country, an established democracy, which is a long-time ally of the U.S., the fictional country, Freedonia.

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The following is a report from the Freedonian Secret Service’s representative to the United States, covering the period of 26–29 September 2020.

FREEDONIA LOCAL SERVICE CHIEF (LCS) SITUATION REPORT #3; RICH MAN, POOR MAN, BEGGAR MAN, THIEF

WASHINGTON, DC

THE AMERICAN FOCUS AT HOME IS BEING OVERWHELMED BY NEWS. DESPITE MASSIVE FIRES RAGING IN WESTERN STATES AND THE COUNTRY SURPASSING 200,000 COVID-LINKED DEATHS, THE AMERICAN POLITICAL MEDIA IS NOW FOCUSED ON THE CONFIRMATION BATTLE OVER THE COUNTRY’S NEXT SUPREME COURT JUSTICE AND AN EXPOSE OF TWO DECADES OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS. NOTE — A FURTHER UPDATE MAY BE NECESSARY AS THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE OCCURS THE SAME DAY THIS IS SENT.

OVER THE WEEKEND OF 26–27 SEPTEMBER 2020, THE NEW YORK TIMES PUBLISHED A SERIES OF ARTICLES DESCRIBING AND ANALYZING APPROXIMATELY TWO DECADES OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS, WHICH ANONYMOUS SOURCES PROVIDED TO THE NEWS ORGANIZATION. WHILE THESE HAVE NOT BEEN VERIFIED, THE NEW YORK TIME EDITOR MAINTAINS THE LEAKER HAS PROPER LEGAL POSSESSION OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S ACTUAL RETURNS.

IN 2016, THEN-CANDIDATE TRUMP REFUSED TO DISCLOSE HIS TAX RETURN, SOMETHING NO MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATE IN DECADES HAD DONE. YEARS OF LITIGATION FOLLOWED WITH VARIOUS PARTIES, INCLUDING THE DEMOCRATIC-CONTROLLED U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DEMANDING THE PRESIDENT’S RETURNS, AND THE PRESIDENT FIGHTING DISCLOSURE ALL THE WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT.

THE DOCUMENTS INDICATE THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP AND HIS BUSINESSES ARE DEEPLY INDEBTED TO CREDITORS, INCLUDING INTERNATIONAL CREDITORS, WITH APPROXIMATELY $300 MILLION IN DEBT COMING DUE IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS.

THE DOCUMENTS INDICATE THAT DONALD TRUMP PAID LITTLE OR NO FEDERAL TAXES FOR MOST OF THE TWENTY YEARS COVERED BY THE RETURNS. IN FACT, IN EACH OF 2016 AND 2017, HE PAID $750.00 IN FEDERAL TAXES. ACCORDING TO THE TIMES’ ANALYSIS, THE PRESIDENT PAID SO LITTLE MONEY BECAUSE HIS BUSINESSES LOST SO MUCH.

ACCORDING TO THE PAPER, EVEN PRESIDENT TRUMP’S WASHINGTON DC HOTEL AND THE GOLF COURSE IN FLORIDA, THE DORAL, HAVE CONTINUED TO LOSE MONEY DURING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TENURE AS PRESIDENT, DESPITE THE MONEY HIS BUSINESSES CHARGE THE U.S. TAXPAYER FOR TRUMP’S TRAVEL AND THE SIGNIFICANT MONIES POURED INTO EACH BUSINESS BY FOREIGN AND U.S. INSTITUTIONS, GOVERNMENTS, POLITICIANS, LEADERS, BUSINESS OWNERS, AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES. (LCS NOTATION: PRESIDENTIAL TRAVEL ALMOST ALWAYS INVOLVES A LARGE RETINUE, AND THE COST OF BOTH THE FIRST FAMILY AND THE ACCOMPANYING TRAVELERS IS BORNE BY THE U.S. TAXPAYER. WHAT IS DIFFERENT WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP IS THAT TAXPAYER MONEY IS GOING INTO MR. TRUMP’S POCKET.)

THE NY TIMES ALSO CONCLUDES THAT THE PRESIDENT TAKES DEDUCTIONS FOR ITEMS HE CLAIMS ARE BUSINESS EXPENSES, INCLUDING SOME $70,000 IN HAIRCARE. THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION HAS ALSO PAID CONSULTANT FEES TO MEMBERS OF THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION, E.G., HIS DAUGHTER IVANKA, WHO ALREADY RECEIVE A SALARY FROM THE TRUMP BUSINESS.

THE NY TIMES REPORTS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS BEEN ENGAGED IN A BATTLE WITH THE U.S. TAX AGENCY (THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, OR IRS) SINCE 2011 OVER A $72.9 MILLION DEDUCTION HE WAS GRANTED IN 2010, WHICH THE AGENCY QUESTIONED A YEAR LATER. SHOULD THE IRS WIN THIS FIGHT, THE PRESIDENT WOULD OWE THE US GOVERNMENT SOME $100 MILLION IN TAXES AND PENALTIES.

AND, FINALLY, THE NY TIMES REPORTS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS TAKEN OUT LOANS TOTALING SOMEWHERE AROUND $400 MILLION THAT HE HAS PERSONALLY GUARANTEED. THOSE LOANS WILL COME DUE SOMETIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE, ACCORDING TO REPORTING.

THERE IS NOTHING IN THE REPORTING THAT TIES PRESIDENT TRUMP TO RUSSIA. ALL TAX RETURNS, HOWEVER, ARE THE TAXPAYER’S VERSION OF HIS OR HER INCOME AND EXPENSES. HOWEVER, THEY PAINT A PICTURE OF SOMEONE DEEPLY IN DEBT AND DEMONSTRATE HIS POOR BUSINESS JUDGMENT, QUITE THE OPPOSITE OF THE REPUTATION HE’S CAMPAIGNED ON. ADDITIONALLY, HIS FINANCIAL POSITION MAY EXPLAIN HIS DESIRE TO HOLD ONTO POWER — WITH THE PROTECTION IT BRINGS IN THE FORM OF FAME, POWER, A SOURCE OF INCOME, AND A DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BEHOLDEN TO HIS ORDERS.

PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS CALLED THE REPORTS “FAKE NEWS,” BUT HAS NOT DISPUTED ANY OF THE STORY. IT IS LIKELY THAT THE PRESIDENT, LOOKING TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT, WILL ENGAGE IN EVEN MORE “OUTSIDE THE NORMS” BEHAVIOR THAN HE PREVIOUSLY HAS. THIS COULD RESULT IN INCREASED INSTABILITY IN THE U.S., AND THE WORLD. AND, FOR THE RECORD, WE STATE THE INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS, THAT IF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS ABOUT TO BE $400 MILLION IN ARREARS, THERE IS A VERY REAL THREAT OF COMPROMISE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD. GIVEN THAT, IT SEEMS THIS MAY BE A TIME TO SCALE BACK EVEN FURTHER ON INTELLIGENCE EXCHANGES WITH THE UNITED STATES.

ON SEPTEMBER 18, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG PASSED AWAY, LEAVING A VACANCY ON THE NATION’S HIGHEST, MOST PRESTIGIOUS AND MOST POWERFUL COURT. AMERICAN LAW HAS A PROFOUND AFFECT ACROSS THE WORLD, PARTICULARLY IN THE BUSINESS ARENA. A KEY TO AMERICA’S LEGAL INFLUENCE IS THE RESPECT THAT AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL LEGAL COMMUNITIES HAVE FOR THE AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM.

THE POLITICS SURROUNDING THIS VACANCY PROVIDE ANOTHER FISSURE IN THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM. IN FEBRUARY 2016, NEARLY A YEAR BEFORE PRESIDENT OBAMA LEFT OFFICE, A SEAT CAME OPEN ON THE SUPREME COURT. AT THAT TIME, SENATE REPUBLICANS, HOLDING A MAJORITY IN THE SENATE, WOULD NOT ALLOW A DEBATE OR VOTE ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S NOMINEE, ARGUING THAT VOTERS SHOULD ELECT THE NEXT PRESIDENT WHO SHOULD SELECT THE NEXT JUSTICE. REPUBLICANS CALLED THEIR OBSTRUCTION THE “BIDEN RULE,” BECAUSE VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN, AS A SENATOR, ONCE QUESTIONED THE PROPRIETY OF NOMINATING A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE DURING AN ELECTION YEAR.

IN A COMPLETE ABOUT FACE, SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE POISED TO CONFIRM PRESIDENT TRUMP’S NOMINEE, JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRET, BEFORE THE NOVEMBER ELECTION. THIS HAS CAUSED SIGNIFICANT CRITICISM FROM DEMOCRATS AND WOMEN’S GROUPS, WITH POLLS SHOWING A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DO NOT WANT A NEW JUSTICE CONFIRMED BEFORE THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION IS KNOWN. HOWEVER, BECAUSE OF RULE CHANGES REPUBLICANS PUT INTO PLACE FOR THE CONFIRMATION OF JUDGES, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO CONFIRM JUDGE BARRETT WITHOUT DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT.

JUDGE BARRETT IS KNOWN AS A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS AND CONSERVATIVE JUDGE. HER CONFIRMATION WILL GIVE CONSERVATIVES A 6–3 MAJORITY ON THE NATION’S HIGHEST COURT, PLACING A NUMBER OF NOW-SETTLED PRINCIPLES OF LAW, INCLUDING THAT WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEEK AN ABORTION, AT RISK. SHE IS ALSO NOT LIKELY TO GIVE PERSUASIVE POWER TO INTERNATIONAL LAW, SOMETHING CONSERVATIVES HAVE LONG LOOKED ON SKEPTICALLY. THIS WILL FURTHER ISOLATE THE UNITED STATES’ LEGAL AND POLITICAL INTEGRATION WITH OTHER WESTERN AND FRIENDLY NATIONS AND POTENTIALLY UNDERMINE THEIR ABILITY TO CALL ON INTERNATIONAL LAW IN FUTURE DISPUTES with CHINA OVER THAT COUNTRY’S ACTIONS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA AND BEYOND. JUDGE BARRETT’S NOMINATION WILL ALSO MEAN THAT PRESIDENTS WHO LOST THE POPULAR VOTE WILL HAVE APPOINTED A MAJORITY OF THE SUPREME COURT’S JUSTICES.

THE POLITICAL UPROAR OVER THE SUPREME COURT HAS LED TO DECREASING RESPECT FOR THE INSTITUTION AMONG THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. THE REPUBLICAN’S CLEAR HYPOCRISY AND POWER GRAB HAVE LEAD SOME LEADING DEMOCRATS TO THREATEN TO EITHER EXPAND THE SUPREME COURT OR IMPOSE TERM LIMITS ON JUSTICES — BOTH MEASURES THAT WOULD FUNDAMENTALLY ALTER THE INSTITUTION AND LIKELY FURTHER ERODE RESPECT FOR IT.

We are veterans of the U.S. National Security Community who believe that President Trump presents a clear and present danger to America’s safety and security.