President Donald Trump may boast about it, but he won’t be breaking new ground by releasing updated financial disclosure forms one year before it’s required.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has done the same.
Still, his 2016 disclosure to the Federal Election Commission—expected out as soon as this week—promises to generate intense scrutiny. The report, which aides said he would release voluntarily, will open a window into his books, likely showing how much cash flowed into his golf courses and hotels and more detail on how he wound down his business operations after winning the election.
But don’t expect the kitchen sink. The report won’t show how much Trump paid in taxes last year or his total business debt—the kinds of details that could show whether his businesses create conflicts of interest with his government gig.
Here are five things to watch when the forms come out:
How’s the Trump brand doing in the limelight?
Trump’s disclosure may put dollar figures around how his businesses fared financially during his presidential campaign.
He’s already boasting that his last two disclosure forms showed how rich he was. Last May, he claimed to be worth “in excess of $10 billion” when filing a form that he declared the “largest in the history” of the FEC.
A year before that, he complained that the FEC document didn’t have boxes to check off for some of his most valuable properties. “This report was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump’s massive wealth,” Trump’s press release said.
Now Trump finds himself in a different position. He’s faced allegations for months that he’s profiting off his presidency, and the documents he’s set to release may make that case.
Not only is Trump positioned to give a new net worth figure, he’ll also reveal revenue generated at Mar-a-Lago, the South Florida private club he visited frequently during the campaign and where he recently increased membership fees to $200,000; the Bedminster, N.J., club that’s been dubbed the “summer” White House; and the Trump National course in northern Virginia that he frequently visits when he’s spending weekends at the White House.
But wait, there’s more: Trump likely will disclose revenue he earned in 2016 on everything from his Charlottesville, Va., winery to royalties received from his 1987 autobiography “The Art of the Deal,” as well as other books that previously languished in the back catalogs but have since earned a new audience.
Important caveat: Figures spelling out the value of Trump’s assets won’t be official appraisals. They’ll be good-faith estimates—which Trump himself once acknowledged in a 2007 lawsuit deposition can fluctuate based on “even my own feelings.”
Most important, Trump will only disclose revenues, which means he’s only offering limited insight into the Trump Organization operation.
“It may be useful for boasting purposes,” said Kathleen Clark, an ethics and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “It also is misleading. The company has business expenses, for goodness sake.”
Is Trump still in charge of his companies?
Trump’s financial disclosure forms are expected to shed some light on how he’s rearranged his businesses since winning the White House in November.
The 2015 report he filed last year outlined 564 organizations – including corporations, partnerships, LLCs, foreign entities, non-profits and trusts – where Trump served in a senior leadership role, from president down to board member.
Each of those roles should be significantly diminished, if not gone, in this report. In January, Trump pledged to hand over day-to-day operations of his company to his adult sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr, as well as longtime senior Trump Organization executives.
Trump’s report also should show how many of those 564 organizations still exist. Media reports since the November election have cataloged some being shuttered, including licensing deals for hotels in Azerbaijan, Brazil and Georgia. But Trump may also have added new LLCs too, accounting for businesses like trademarks he’s won in China.
Important caveat: These disclosures will depend on the date range that Trump uses for his forms. Since it’s voluntary, he could detail his businesses for just 2016 or he could include the first few months of 2017 after he was sworn into the White House.
Ethics experts also say Trump could juggle entities into different corporate shells, making it hard to tell which ones he’s actually eliminated.
“It’s like moving the Mercedes from one garage to another,” said Richard Painter, the former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer. “He still has the Mercedes in the garage.”
What about those June 2016 stock sales?
Under fire to explain what Trump would do to address his business conflicts of interest in the weeks after he won the presidential election, a transition spokesman last December said the president-elect had sold all his stocks in June 2016.
Now it’s time for Trump to prove it.
In his 2015 disclosures, Trump detailed at least $61 million that he owned in stocks, hedge funds and mutual funds—the totals were spelled out in wide financial ranges. Among his holdings: at least $25 million in the Blackrock’s Obsidian hedge fund, $600,000 million in Apple, $500 million in Google, $500,000 in Chevron and $500,000 in Comcast.
The fire sale likely crimped Trump’s bottom line. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone up more than 15.8 percent since last June, fueled by strong economic data, rising oil prices and the prospect of financial deregulation.
Important caveat: Trump’s stock portfolio is only a small portion of his wealth, and the FEC filing he’s releasing won’t require him to say how much he made on the transactions.
Who does Trump owe money?
Trump’s disclosure will allow closer scrutiny into how much debt he carries and whether any of the terms to his financing – interest rates or maturation terms — changed during the presidential campaign or transition.
In his 2015 form, Trump reported 16 major liabilities worth at least $315 million, including mortgages on Trump Tower and his golf courses in Miami, northern Virginia and Monmouth County, N.J. He also reported loans for the 40 Wall Street skyscraper in New York and the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Important caveat: The form won’t be detailed enough to get a full read on Trump’s debt. He doesn’t need to say which foreign governments’ financial institutions he’s on the hook to. And he won’t disclose corporate debt, so the forms likely show only a fraction of what he owes.
“It’s absolutely not a complete representation of the debt Donald Trump owes through his businesses,” said Clark. She pointed to an inconsistency: Trump in the past reported on his FEC form his total asset values and income that appeared to include his wider company properties but didn’t follow the same criteria for his liabilities.
“Imagine applying for a credit card or a loan and listing all your revenue and all your income but not all your debt,” she said.
What do the first lady’s finances look like?
Melania Trump barely registered a year ago when Trump filed his financial disclosure form. The only income listed for the future first lady—in a range from $15,001 to $50,000—came via royalties tied to a licensing agreement with a company called Melania Marks Accessories. She also reported up to $5 million in value from residential real estate in New York.
But media reports since May 2016 show there’s more to Melania Trump’s books.
In February, McClatchy reported that several companies connected to Melania Trump no longer had relationships to manufacture products tied to the first lady, including watches, jewelry and skin-care products. Melania Trump in April also reached a $2.9 million settlement with the Daily Mail and Mail Online to close a defamation lawsuit she brought after the tabloid published a story falsely suggesting she’d worked for an escort service.
Important caveat: Since these developments happened recently, Trump might not include them on the form, meaning the world would wait until next May to see the changes in her finances.