Politics, Moderate

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Politics

We don't know what Trump's tax returns are hiding. But the hints are troubling.

Catherine Rampell on

When you look at the short span of President Trump's political career, one question jumps out: How much of his craziest, most paranoid and norm-violating behavior is motivated by a desire to keep his financial arrangements secret?

It began with Trump's bizarre refusal to release his tax returns, in defiance of both a nearly half-century practice and Trump's own promise that he'd do so.

Then there was his refusal to divest from his sprawling multinational empire, or even put it into a blind trust -- either of which would have forced at least some information disclosure to a third party.

There were also the interviews and tweetstorms calling journalists who report on his finances "enemies of the people," and suggestions that federal officials who audit him are anti-Christian.

As well as his implicit threat in 2017 that he would fire special counsel Robert Mueller if he crossed a "red line" by examining Trump's personal financial dealings.

Also, his curious personnel priorities. Once it became clear that House Democrats would exercise their explicit statutory authority to get Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, Trump asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to prioritize confirmation of Trump's IRS general counsel nominee ahead of confirmation of a new attorney general. This IRS general counsel pick, mind you, also happened to have previously advised the Trump Organization on tax issues.

 

Trump's treasury secretary has also been spending so much time safeguarding Trump's tax returns, in violation of that explicit statute, that the activity is reportedly crowding out his day job.

All of which raises the question: Why exactly is Trump (and the rest of his administration) expending so much energy and political capital to keep these documents hidden? What could possibly be so disturbing or incriminating to justify such an effort?

One theory is that, maybe, if Trump's tax returns or other financial records become public, his supporters would learn that he's not nearly as rich as he says. Another is that his finances are not exactly on the up and up.

Of course, both explanations could be true.

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