A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is pressing the director of national intelligence (DNI) to assess whether President Trump’s personal debt could be a vulnerability to U.S. national security and interests.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) in a pair of letters Thursday asked DNI John Ratcliffe and his predecessor, former DNI Dan Coats, to detail whether Trump’s personal debts and loans could be exploited by foreign adversaries.
Krishnamoorthi referenced a recent New York Times bombshell report about Trump’s tax returns, which found that the president has personal debt exceeding $400 million, most of which is coming due in the next few years. Trump, who has long cited an IRS audit as the reason for not releasing his tax returns, might owe an additional $100 million if there is an adverse ruling by the tax-collecting agency, according to the report.
“Some former intelligence officials have already weighed in on the manners in which these debts, combined with his ongoing international business interests, pose significant points of pressure and potential compromise for the President in dealings with foreign adversaries,” Krishnamoorthi wrote.
“It is based on these revelations that I request that you share your assessment as to whether or not such financial vulnerabilities could compromise American public health and safety,” the Illinois Democrat added.
Specifically, Krishnamoorthi asked Ratcliffe and Coats whether significant personal debt for those working in national security increases their risk of being target by foreign adversaries, whether senior public officials with millions in debt – like the president – face heightened counterintelligence risks and whether such financial exposure would typically disqualify individuals from receiving a security clearance.
The Intelligence Committee member asked both Ratcliffe and Coats to respond to his letter by Oct 13.
Krishnamoorthi’s letters come as some former law enforcement figures like former FBI Director James Comey have warned that a government official with significant personal debt could pose a risk to national security.
Comey, a vocal Trump critic who was fired by the president in 2017, testified before the Senate on Wednesday that significant debt is taken into consideration when reviewing an individual’s background for a security clearance.
“A person’s financial situation could make them vulnerable to coercion by an adversary and allow an adversary to do what we try to do to foreign government officials we find are indebted, which is to try to recruit them to our side,” Comey said during a remote testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During a separate part of the hearing, Comey was questioned about Trump’s financial ties to countries like Russia and whether this may influence his foreign policy.
“I don’t know whether the Russians have something over President Trump, but it is difficult to explain his conduct, his statements in any other way, especially as a refusal to criticize [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Comey responded. “So it raises significant questions and obviously the question is only deepened by disclosure, if it is true, of significant indebtedness.”
Trump has defended his finances while pushing back on the Times report earlier this week after the newspaper reported that he paid effectively no income taxes in 10 of 15 years before he was elected president in 2016 and paid $750 in income tax in both 2016 and 2017.
The president maintained Monday that he has “paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits” while claiming that he has “very little debt compared to the value of assets.”