Trump's Taxes To Be Released

[ Posted Tuesday, December 20th, 2022 – 18:06 UTC ]

As I write this, the news is just coming in from the House Ways and Means Committee -- Donald Trump's tax returns will be sent to the full House, meaning they will become public record.

I've been waiting all day to hear the outcome, and reading arguments both for and against this release in the media. And I have to say, the arguments for keeping Trump's tax returns private don't seem very convincing.

A main point in this argument is being framed as a choice between a world where taxpayers have iron-clad privacy and one where partisans in Congress could release anyone's return, willy-nilly. This is a false choice. Donald Trump is not just "any taxpayer."

The argument is also being framed that this is somehow "unprecedented," which is not true either. The release of a president's tax returns by a congressional committee is not unprecedented. In 1974, a congressional committee released a report "describing and analyzing President Richard M. Nixon's tax returns from 1969 to 1972," by way of a law that had been in place since 1924.

No president since then has had this happen, but for a very good reason. Congress has never released a presidents' tax returns in the post-Nixonian era, to be true. But that's because they never had to. The blame for the "unprecedented" charge should be laid at the feet of Donald Trump, not Democrats in a House committee. Since Nixon, every person who ever even ran for president on a major party's ticket -- not "got elected," mind you, but just "ran" -- has voluntarily disclosed his or her tax returns. Some only release a few years. Some release decades' worth. There is no set rule-of-thumb beyond the basic one: the American people deserve to know where and how you have been recently making your money -- before they make the decision whether you should be president or not. In all that time, Trump is the only one to ever completely ignore this tradition. That is what is unprecedented, if anything. No House committee has ever released a presidents' tax returns since Nixon because it was not necessary -- those tax returns had already voluntarily been made public by the candidate.

Some castigate the Democrats in Congress right now for not just codifying this into law at some point in the past two years. Why haven't they passed a "Presidential Candidate Reform" bill and made it mandatory for anyone running (anyone who appears on the ballot) to release a certain number of years of returns? Well, that sounds like a good idea on the face of it but it might be open to constitutional challenges. Such a new rule might have to pass as an amendment to the Constitution, not just a new federal law. The Constitution already lays out certain criteria for presidents and vice presidents. You must be at least 35 years old when you take office. You must be a "natural born" citizen (whatever that actually means -- it didn't stop Canadian-born Ted Cruz or Panama Canal Zone-born John McCain from running). More recently, by amendment, you must not have already served more than one-and-a-half terms as president (Lyndon Johnson could have been elected twice, and served more than eight years, but nobody is allowed to serve more than ten years, total). So adding: "You must publicly release X years of income tax returns" might necessitate an actual amendment.

Releasing presidential tax returns was a modern political tradition in America, ever since Nixon's time in office. Trump ignored this, along with a whole passel of other presidential traditions and norms. He fought strongly in court against even the House committee seeing his taxes. It's always been assumed he's got something big to hide, although opinions differ as to what exactly that might be.

The argument for keeping Trump's taxes private would be a lot stronger if Trump was a retired ex-president. If he had clearly stepped down from the world of politics, then it might be seen as a moot point what happened to be in his taxes during his term in office. It'd be water under the bridge, and dredging everything up would have been painted as nothing more than partisan revenge on a president Democrats didn't like.

But that's not the case. Donald Trump is running for president again. He's the first Republican to formally announce his campaign, in fact. So how he made his money (and how much money he made) is entirely relevant. Trump didn't just ignore the tradition of releasing his tax returns, he also thumbed his nose at the emoluments clause of the Constitution and refused to fully divest himself from his namesake company. These were also unprecedented abuses of the norms of politics. And this is why his taxes still matter.

Trump will, no doubt, sell this as a monstrous injustice done to him and he will also without doubt tell his supporters that: "They're coming for you next! All 87,000 of them! In jackboots!" Trump's fight will be seen (by them) as a fight for all of them. Which is hogwash, but he seemed to do a pretty good job selling the whole "the F.B.I. raided me, they'll be breaking down your door next!" bushwah earlier. None of his followers had top secret documents stored in a mini-storage place, and none of them was a president with questionable income streams. But it doesn't seem to matter, to them.

Trump, of course, promised repeatedly to release his tax returns to the public himself. Then his accountants likely had a few quiet words with him on what this would entail, and he came up with a catchall excuse: "I'm being audited, sorry." Nothing about being audited barred him from releasing anything, but he acted like it was some sort of legal obligation and most of his supporters didn't blink. The House committee today merely aided Donald Trump in making good on one of his campaign promises, when you get right down to it.

It will reportedly take a few days for the returns to be redacted of personal information (by removing things like Social Security numbers). But by week's end, six years' worth of Trump's taxes will finally be made public.

And we'll all finally be able to see what it was he was so desperately hiding.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


19 Comments on “Trump's Taxes To Be Released”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I'm sure they'll show a fair amount of Russian money, which will surprise exactly zero percent of his detractors, and change the mind of exactly zero percent of his supporters.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I researched Russian nuclear doctrine and even setting aside the almost certain maintenance issues endemic throughout their military I am not especially concerned about nuclear Armageddon, because...

    Just like us Westerners, Russian nuclear doctrine is explicitly public knowledge. This is to reduce the chances of an avoidable misunderstanding leading to nuclear catastrophe. MAD and such.

    In the twenty plus years since Putin took power, their nuclear doctrine has gotten more conservative, a good thing. Basically, only an existential threat to the regime would permit the use of nukes.

    Launching requires Vlad, his Minister of Defense and his Chief of Staff to all simultaneously turn the key. Knowing that the Americans would launch in return means Vlad has to convince two fellow rich guys to commit suicide. Won't happen. Bullet in Vlad's skull instead.

    Plus, nowadays every last nuclear power is making double sure not to accidentally set off Armageddon, so ironically planet Earth is currently safer than before Putin's invasion.

    So sleep well at night, y'all! The Arc of History and stuff...

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Naw, go on!

    I thought that I was the only one on planet Earth that saw Trump's moves as entirely logical...

    IF one assumed that Vlad has something on Donnie, whether golden showers or golden money laundering...

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ... or BOTH. Or even more beyond that -- so much winning!

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Nope... Donnie is toast. Vlad is toast. If only we could also simultaneously off Bibi and Victor Orban, life would be Peachy. Korn (48:14)

  7. [7] 
    andygaus wrote:

    I think the most likely things he wanted to hide would be how much in taxes he hasn't been paying (but we knew that already) and how little he actually has. I remember that he appeared some years back at some kind of comedy roast and they asked in advance what kind of jokes would be too offensive, and he named jokes about how he doesn't really have that much money as too great an offense.

  8. [8] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Y'all can't be that naive. Yeah it sounds like an insult and it might be.

    You don't really think anything as honest as Russian money is in his tax returns do you? Please!

    Likely, there's little incriminating in his tax returns. There is embarrassing and stuff that doesn't look good. But incriminating? The only thing truly incriminating in his returns is what he didn't report (like Russian money).

    That's my guess (I have no inside knowledge, but we're playing the guessing game).

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I dunno, Trump Incorporated was just convicted of tax fraud.

    But I’m sure Trump is in no danger…

  10. [10] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    If he hasn't reported certain items of income or expenditure for whatever reason, even if actual illegal activities aren't involved, he will have laid himself open to charges of personal tax fraud when and if someone tracks them down. Is he now too toxic to be represented by good tax lawyers when and if that happens?

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Is that a serious question!?

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I guess it depends on just what you mean by "good tax lawyers". Heh.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i don't know about "good" tax lawyers, but certainly tax lawyers who care more about getting paid than getting publicity.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:


    IRS auditors are probing whether Trump misused a provision in the tax code that allowed him a full refund with interest of taxes he paid between 2005 and 2008, a total of $72.9 million. If the IRS decides to disallow that refund, Trump could owe more than $100 million in restitution, including interest and penalties.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    There's a long history of everyone in Donald's orbit being indicted but not Donald himself, in spite of an ironclad case for doing so. So no matter how rational it would be or how in line with the letter of the law, frankly I'll believe it when I see it.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'll tell ya what he won't be indicted for - inciting an insurrection, a la J6C ...

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Isn't that what they arrested Jesus for? Happy Christmas!

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh. Happy Christmas, Joshua!

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