So–we finally get to see a significant portion of the tax returns Trump has succeeded in hiding until now. As I understand it, the returns obtained by the Times were personal–not business returns–so any money that Russia supplied to The Trump Organization would only show up on returns we still haven’t seen.
The Times analysis is extensive, and you can read the details there. I’ll just share a few of my more immediate reactions:
- If the New York Times is guilty of “fake news,” as the President insists, he has an easy way to prove it. He can release the tax returns that rebut the “fake” version analyzed by the newspaper. (The situation he finds himself in vis a vis the tax returns is similar to that posed by multiple accusations of sexual assault. At least one accuser has DNA evidence; Trump has refused to submit to a DNA test that he insists would exonerate him.) Innocent people who have the ability to conclusively demonstrate that innocence do not stubbornly refuse to do so.
- Assuming the tax returns obtained by the Times are genuine–an inescapable assumption–the paltry $750 payment over a period of ten years can be explained in one of two ways: either Trump engaged in tax fraud–i.e., he cheated–or he was a terrible businessman. (And yes, it is possible, even likely, that both are true…) Michael Cohen, his longtime fixer, has testified that Trump exaggerated his net worth to lenders and hid assets from tax authorities, and anyone who’s been paying any attention at all the past few years will find that pattern of behavior consistent with what we’ve seen. The business failures also lend credibility to Cohen’s assertion that Trump ran for President assuming he would lose, in an effort to promote his “brand” and improve its performance.
- The degree to which Trump is personally indebted–and the identity and nationality of the people to whom he owes significant sums–pose a “clear and present” danger to American security. That danger is undoubtedly one of the things that prompted the recent release of a letter from a bipartisan group of nearly 500 past and present national security officers, endorsing Joe Biden. According to media reports, the signatories included five former secretaries of the Navy, two former Army secretaries, four former Air Force secretaries, two retired governors, and 106 ambassadors.
- Overall, the tax returns tell us that Trump is buried in an almost inconceivable mountain of debt. He owes more than $300 million dollars, and his businesses have continually lost money. The only enterprise that actually generated net income for him was “The Apprentice”–and he used that income to shore up the golf courses and other ventures that have steadily lost money. He has personally guaranteed a significant amount of that debt (no doubt basing those guarantees on an inflated net worth), and the bulk of it is rapidly coming due.
- I was astonished at his evident success in deducting personal expenses. We “little people” who obediently follow the rules (making us, in Trump talk, “dumb”) could never get away with deducting $70,000 in hairstyling, or $26 million dollars in “consulting fees” paid to his own daughter–despite the fact that that daughter was also on his payroll!
- The Times reported that Trump is fighting with the IRS over the repayment of a $72.9 million tax refund. If he has to repay it, it will run to $100 million when penalties and interest are factored in. I’m bemused –gobsmacked, actually–that he was able to con the IRS into giving him that refund in the first place.
There’s a lot more information in those returns, and the Times promises to follow up its bombshell disclosures with additional insights. But one thing is already abundantly clear: Trump’s frantic effort to avoid a peaceful transfer of power is based upon his recognition of the fact that once he leaves office, he will no longer be protected by that DOJ memo saying a sitting President cannot be indicted. He will face federal and state prosecution for bank fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud.
Unless he manages to somehow steal the election and remain in office by subverting American law, Trump’s last days will be spent either in a federal prison or in one of those “shithole” countries that does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.