Monday, September 28, 2020

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming

What did Donald Trump do today? 

He tried to defuse the tax story without saying anything.

Trump made two public appearances today: once at a swing-state factory making electric trucks, and once at a coronavirus briefing. At the first, he reflexively began to answer when a reporter shouted a question, but turned and abruptly left after it became clear she was asking about the shocking revelations about his tax returns.

Q: Mr. President, are you looking forward to the debate?

TRUMP:  Yeah, I am.  I do.  I’m really —

Q: Mr. President, you tweeted about releasing a financial statement.  When will you release that?

TRUMP:  — I am looking — I am looking very forward to the debate.  Thank you, everybody.


At the second, he simply stalked away from the podium as reporters shouted questions.

Trump's strategy yesterday was to insist that, somehow, the 18 years of tax returns obtained by the New York Times were "fake news." He also insisted that unofficial financial disclosure forms would be a much better way to learn about his finances.

Today, in a tweet, he backtracked from even that, saying that he "may" release a self-reported financial statement. This hypothetical future statement—Trump didn't say when he might release it—would supposedly show that Trump had a healthy debt-to-cash ratio, and that it would be "IMPRESSIVE."

Of course, even without releasing his own copies of tax returns, Trump could easily disprove any false statements in the NYT article. He could also simply say who some of the unknown parties or countries are who own his debt, which may total $1.1 billion or more. Because the use of financial leverage is a common way of recruiting spies, far less debt than the NYT story uncovered would permanently disqualify Trump from getting even a basic security clearance, if he weren't president. 

He could also, if possible, explain why so much of what is revealed in the NYT returns looks so much like common (and illegal) tax evasion schemes. For example, Trump paid his daughter Ivanka, an employee of the Trump Organization, a separate fee as a "consultant." This allowed him to write off the amount as a business expense, but it's illegal to pay sham fees to avoid income or gift taxes.

Who cares?

  • The only reason to keep something like this secret is that the truth is even more damning than keeping silent.
  • It shouldn't be possible for anyone to have this much leverage over the President of the United States—much less any number of anonymous entities whose identity is protected by the president himself.
  • Running away from reporters doesn't make questions go away.