What's Hiding In Trump's Tax Returns That Makes The GOP So Nervous?
When journalists start a report with "Trump said..." it should only be the introduction of a sentence about lying or flip-flopping. It doesn't matter what Trump says. What Trump says is a moment in time without relevance to anything past or future and just another example of how he lies and cheats. And, as Greg Sargent pointed out yesterday in the Washington Post, all he'd have to do-- if he wasn't so grand and pig-headed-- is learn how to talk like a Republican political automaton and his party establishment would be instantly united behind him. For instance, posits Sargent, Trump can stop calling for mass deportations and instead say, "I’ll enforce the law" and he can claim we need to "strengthen" entitlements, preferred bipartisan conservatalk for cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to "save" the programs.
Early today, asked what tax rate he paid, he told Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos that his tax rate is "none of your business" and admitted "I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible." Talking his way out of his refusal to submit his tax returns might be a little tricky for Trump. Romney, in fact, has called the refusal disqualifying. His Facebook entry:
It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service. Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate's representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest. Further, while not a likely circumstance, the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander-in-chief.You didn't ever really think a crooked businessman and tax cheat like Trump would release his tax returns, did you? Instead, he flip-flopping and playing media games about it leaving voters confused-- as usual-- about what he's actually doing. He announced he would release the returns when the irrelevant IRS audit was over and then rescinded and said he won't release them and then backtracked and said, just wait and he'll release them, all in a 24 hour period. "There's nothing to learn from them," he told an Associated Press reporter. He says he's apprehensive his critics will analyze the returns and make an issue of them. You think? That's already started and his flip-flopping isn't helping. I wonder if he thinks stoking the fight with Ryan for his base will help get their minds off the tax returns.
Mr. Trump says he is being audited. So? There is nothing that prevents releasing tax returns that are being audited. Further, he could release returns for the years immediately prior to the years under audit. There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size.
(Anticipating inquiries regarding my own tax release history, I released my 2010 tax returns in January of 2012 and I released my 2011 tax returns as soon as they were completed, in September of 2012.)
Timothy O'Brien is a big-time, distinguished journalist who has tangled with Trump before and who did see Trump's tax returns-- and wrote about it for Bloomberg yesterday, pointing out that "as someone who saw Trump’s federal tax returns about a decade ago as part of a legal action in which he sued me for libel (the suit was later dismissed), I think there probably are some things to be learned from them."
The tax returns my lawyers and I reviewed were sealed, and a court order prevents me from speaking or writing about the specifics of what I saw. I can say that Trump routinely delayed-- for months on end-- producing those documents, and when they finally arrived they were so heavily redacted that they looked like crossword puzzles. The litigation ran on for five years, and during that time we had to petition the court to compel Trump to hand over unredacted versions of the tax returns-- which he ultimately did.And goats on his New Jersey golf course so he can get a tax break due to farmers and ranchers. Republican voters love... a cheat, huh?
So despite Trump’s statements to the contrary, here are some general questions that a full release of at least several years of his tax returns might usefully answer:
1) Income: Trump has made the size of his fortune a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, implying that it’s a measure of his success as a businessman. He has also correctly noted that the income shown on his tax returns isn’t a reflection of his total wealth. Even so, income is a basis for assessing some of the foundations of any individual’s wealth-- and would certainly reflect the financial wherewithal of the businesses in which Trump is involved.
After Fortune’s Shawn Tully dug into Trump’s financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission and an accompanying personal balance sheet his campaign released, he noted in March that Trump “appears to have overstated his income, by a lot, which could be the reason he has so far tried to avoid releasing his returns.” Tully said that Trump apparently boosted his income in the documents by conflating his various businesses’ revenue with his personal income. Trump didn’t respond to Tully’s assessment, but he could clear up all of that by releasing his tax returns.
2) Business Activities: Trump has long claimed that his company, the Trump Organization, employs thousands of people. He has also criticized Fortune 500 companies for operating businesses overseas at the expense of jobs for U.S. workers. Trump’s returns would show how active he and his businesses are globally-- and would help substantiate the actual size and scope of his operation.
3) Charitable Giving: Trump has said that he’s a generous benefactor to a variety of causes-- especially war veterans-- even though it’s been hard to find concrete evidence to support the assertion. Other examples of major philanthropic largess from Trump have also been elusive. Trump could release his tax returns and put the matter to rest.
4) Tax Planning: There’s been global attention focused on the issue of how politicians and the wealthy use tax havens and shell companies to possibly hide parts of their fortunes from authorities. If released, Trump’s returns would make clear whether or not he used such vehicles.
5) Transparency and Accountability: Trump is seeking the most powerful office in the world. Some of the potential conflicts of interest or financial pressures that may arise if he reaches the White House would get an early airing in a release of his tax returns.
For the last 40 years, presidential candidates have released their returns. Trump, of course, has portrayed himself as the un-candidate, the guy who bucks convention. But disclosing tax returns is a valuable political tradition that’s well worth preserving.
Trump’s golf clubs in Bedminster and Colts Neck both receive the break and pay reduced property taxes on the part of the land devoted to agriculture. The Bedminster course includes 113 acres of hay production and eight goats, while the Colts Neck course has 40 acres of hay plus stands of trees, according to tax-break applications filed with local governments.
...“This is a good example of Donald Trump farming the government,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the state’s Sierra Club chapter, who accuses the developer of “not paying his fair share” by using the incentive for a golf course instead of a legitimate farm.