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Trump's dubious complaint: The presidency is a financial 'loser'

When it comes to his finances, Trump sees the American presidency as "one of the great losers of all time." That may not, however, be entirely true.
In this photo taken Dec. 21, 2106, the Trump International Hotel in Washington. 

Around Thanksgiving, in response to a question about whether his financial interests with Saudi Arabia were influencing his foreign policy, Donald Trump took a moment to reflect on the money he could've made if he'd remained in the private sector.

"Being president has cost me a fortune, and that's okay with me," he said, adding, "Being president has cost me a fortune -- a tremendous fortune like you've never seen before."

Apparently, this is still very much on his mind, as evidenced by his comments to the New York Times yesterday.

At one point, he scoffed at the notion that he was making money from the presidency, calling the job a "loser" financially."I lost massive amounts of money doing this job," he said. "This is not the money. This is one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don't need money. This is one of the great losers of all time. But they'll say that somebody from some country stayed at a hotel. And I'll say, 'Yeah.' But I lose, I mean, the numbers are incredible."

I've never fully understood the point of Trump frequently raising this complaint, especially in public. It's almost as if he's under the impression that Americans will feel sorry for him, or perhaps express our gratitude for the scope of his financial sacrifice.

But just as important is the degree to which the president continues to profit from his office -- a point that seems far more significant than Trump is prepared to acknowledge.

Indeed, he seemed to acknowledge this, before quickly dismissing it's significance: "[T]hey'll say that somebody from some country stayed at a hotel. And I'll say, 'Yeah.'"

Right. He says "yeah" because, at some level, he seems to understand that when Trump's business makes money, some of that profit ends up in his pocket. (And when the money comes from "somebody from some country," it raises serious constitutional concerns, too.)

The same is true of Trump's golf resorts, which he also continues to own and profit from, and which raised their rates to capitalize on the president's position.

Is it possible that, despite these ongoing revenue streams, the presidency is still "one of the great losers of all time" for Trump and his finances? Sure, that might be true. It's also possible that the president hasn't lost "massive" amounts of money at all.

There's really only one way to know for sure: he could start doing what every other modern president has done and disclose his tax returns.