Trump, Tax Naked

To cut to bare bones, there are two kinds of Trump supporters: those who fully appreciate what a vulgar, amoral ignoramus he is, but will pretend not to notice as long as he gives them things they want, such as conservative judges, and those who are blinded by the game show host myth that he’s some billionaire genius who knows stuff*. The former are cynics, willing to sell their souls, so there’s nothing to be done to dissuade them from supporting Trump.

But what of the true believers? Is there anything that can shake them out of their mindless backing of a man who says windmills cause cancer? Maybe if he were revealed not merely as a rapist, a liar and moron, which is already clear, and reconfirmed almost hourly, but a fraud.

What if his tax returns showed that the one thing, the key to his myth, that distinguishes Darth Cheeto from the unemployed guy with three hungry kids, was a lie? What if it turned out that Trump was no billionaire, but a guy hanging on financially by a thread, scamming the public by attributing a billion dollars worth of good will to a name, without which would put his empire deep in the fiscal toilet?

When the Democrats took the majority in the House, and thus the chairs of committees, it was anticipated that they would go hard and fast at the IRS to get Trump’s tax returns, the ones he refused to reveal during his candidacy. Law didn’t require disclosure, but norms since Nixon did. Somehow, he managed to pull off the miracle of keeping his “rich guy being audited” returns a secret, which might have made sense to the willfully clueless but no one else.

Yet, there was a surprising hole in the subpoenas being issued by House committees, as the tax returns seemed suddenly forgotten. Until now, as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has requested six years of personal and corporate returns from the IRS. It’s not that the law doesn’t provide for the subpoena of tax returns. It does. It’s that the justification for the demand can’t be “we hate this guy and want to use his tax returns to prove he’s a fraud.”

But Neal sent the letter with this explanation.

Seriously? That’s the best excuse they could come up with?

“This request is about policy, not politics; my preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the Administration,” Neal said in a statement.

Neal said that the decision to request the returns was in the interest of ensuring “the accountability of our government and elected officials. To maintain trust in our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government is operating properly, as laws intend.

Heartwarming as these empty platitudinous crap may be, they had three months to come up with a reason that could pass the smell test, and this is the best they could do? Unfortunately, “we really hate this guy and want to reveal him as a phony” isn’t a justification to demand his tax returns, even if it would be more than sufficient for many Americans.

The question isn’t whether presidential candidates should be required by law to disclose their tax returns, their business interests, the accoutrements of their life that has become the norm and is considered mandatory. It should be law, but it isn’t. It should have precluded his winning, but it didn’t. Notably, it’s still not law. Yet, anyway.

But does the reason proffered by Neal suffice?

“Congress must have a legitimate legislative reason for accessing the returns,” Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University, told ABC News. Whittington predicted that Congress could identify valid reasons to examine a sitting president’s tax returns, but obtaining Trump’s tax returns from his years as a private citizen “might be a little more complicated.”

One sound argument could be that tax returns are needed to ascertain whether there has been a violation of the Emoluments Clause, that Trump has used his office to enrich himself from foreign governments. There is no shortage of evidence to support such a claim, regardless of whether the interpretation of the reach of the Emoluments Clause is correct.

“A fishing expedition into the president’s taxes could open up politically motivated efforts to divulge others’ taxes, at the price of privacy,” Harold Krent, Dean of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, told ABC News.

Krent suggested a narrower approach: “I would think that the House would be better off seeking particular returns as part of a larger investigation into the flow of Russian money, payments of hush money, etc., in order to cabin the precedent,” he said.

Bear in mind, if disclosure of tax returns became available as a purely political tool, it would cut both ways.

Congressional Democrats have the “potential to shoot themselves badly in the foot,” [Iowa law prof Andy] Grewal said, pointing out that ninety percent of legislators don’t share their tax returns. Trump could use the same tax code provision to peek at their filings, he said.

This effort to get their hands on Trump’s tax returns could end up, like so many other efforts to “get” Trump, backfiring. But then, they don’t want just the returns during his presidency, which might carry a better rationale but would be inadequate to humiliate the fraudster who passed himself off as a billionaire. By extending the demand to his pre-presidency returns, however, they have reached beyond any legitimate justification and into the realm of pure partisan politics.

There is a good chance this valiant effort will open up the next round of court battles over the sufficiency of the justification, which will make Trump look like the victim of hateful Dems trying to abuse their power as we roll into the 2020 presidential campaign. But even if it succeeded, it would create yet more TrumpLaw.

“Weaponizing the tax code for political purposes sets a dangerous precedent,” [Texas Republican Rep. Kevin] Brady told reporters last week. “Because if Democrats or any party can abuse their power to rummage through the tax returns of the president, what will stop them from abusing that power in the future frankly to target any individual American that they see as a political enemy?”

And what will stop the Republicans from doing the same, as every Dem in Congress, or who runs for president, will surely realize?

*Within this group of dolts and crazies are those who see Trump as the Great White Hope to restore America to its former glory as a white, Christian nation.

20 thoughts on “Trump, Tax Naked

  1. KP

    Next up folks we have the tax returns for Mr Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass….

    I think you confused the titles Boss, THIS one should be called Asking for Trouble !

  2. tom swift

    “a man who says windmills cause cancer”

    Of course he said no such thing, as anyone who understands English knows perfectly well. All you hear is what you want to hear, and what you want to hear is anything which reinforces your silly bigotries.

    And I’m a moron – I certainly know better than to follow links to garbage sites like this.

    1. Skink

      “. . . as anyone who understands English knows perfectly well.”

      Pretty ironic, you are. You wander from the cold into the warmth of this here Hotel, which is populated by lawyers and judges–folks that think and write for a living–and bitch about the comprehension of what you failed to comprehend. If you stick around, you might just earn one of the coveted “Ima SJ Dope” hats.

      1. Guitardave

        So where is the Hotel gift shop, Mr. S ? I want me one of them! ( Red trucker style w/white letters)
        …and a coffee mug too, please.

          1. Guitardave

            I have to think about it a bit more…but that pal just might be me. I’ll e-mail you this weekend after i do some homework.

  3. Richard Kopf

    For everyone’s reading enjoyment, take a look at 28 U.S.C. section 6103(f):

    f) Disclosure to Committees of Congress
    (1) Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation
    Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (2) Chief of Staff of Joint Committee on Taxation
    Upon written request by the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish him with any return or return information specified in such request. Such Chief of Staff may submit such return or return information to any committee described in paragraph (1), except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

    (3) Other committees
    Pursuant to an action by, and upon written request by the chairman of, a committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives (other than a committee specified in paragraph (1)) specially authorized to inspect any return or return information by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives or, in the case of a joint committee (other than the joint committee specified in paragraph (1)) by concurrent resolution, the Secretary shall furnish such committee, or a duly authorized and designated subcommittee thereof, sitting in closed executive session, with any return or return information which such resolution authorizes the committee or subcommittee to inspect. Any resolution described in this paragraph shall specify the purpose for which the return or return information is to be furnished and that such information cannot reasonably be obtained from any other source.

    It’s the law!

    1. Miles

      Subcomment: The judgment of the lower court is hereby reversed.

      Sorry. Just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

    2. Skink

      By the numbers:

      1. What are all them “suches” in them paragraphs? “Such return,” “such committee,” “such information,” makes my brain cells smash together. Who exactly is “Such Chief of Staff?” Is that a special kind of chief, like a Seminole?

      2. Can’t such committee just say we need such returns to see if such president taxpayer can spell, or if such president taxpayer makes his ones with a 1 or I and slashes his zeroes? It seems to me that such is pretty important to holding such office.

      3. When the tables are turned and Republicans go hunting returns for political gain, will the retort to cries of unfairness be “such is life?” I suppose it could be “such is such life.”

      1. SHG Post author

        This week’s comments have tested me. Maybe it’s time for me to accept that the comments win.

        1. Skink

          And I thought you chose the song to make fun of me livin’ in the Swamp and eatin’ roadkill. I guess frequencies sometimes cross.

        2. Rendall

          Not sure if it helps you to know this, but there are legions* of us non-lawyers who refrain from making “such” comments, and appreciate your reigning them in as much as anyone.

          * at least one

    3. B. McLeod

      Quite correct. The Chair of House Ways & Means doesn’t even have to give a reason. But (and probably because of the already existing intent to leak information and not be bound by closed session rules) the purpose set forth in the letter seems crafted to qualify as “tax administration” under 6103(b)(4)(A)(2).

    4. Ray

      The statute says “shall furnish,” without any condition that there be a legitimate basis for the written request. Did you include “it’s the law” for our reading pleasure to let us know that congressional committees can randomly request people’s tax returns for kicks, and there’s nothing to be done about it? Can they get Kim Kardashian’s, yours, mine, just for the asking and to have cool cocktail party stories? It’s unclear to me what you’re saying when you write “it’s the law!”

  4. Pedantic Grammar Police

    “there are two kinds of Trump supporters”

    You left out the 3rd kind; those who think that Trump is a corrupt oligarch and a vulgar ignoramus but enjoy seeing him shake up the Washington politics show. Our country is swirling down the toilet, to the right. We might as well be entertained in the meantime.

    Under equally corrupt oligarch Hillary we would have swirled down to the left, and her smug entitled face would have been on the TV every day. The President’s job is to entertain and distract us, and Trump does that masterfully.

  5. delurking

    I try to avoid predictions, but this tax return obsession is not going to work for Democrats.

    1. Do they not realize that your assets aren’t listed on your personal tax returns? Unless he and his money managers are idiots, his declared income will be less than his living expenses in most years. Watch them try to explain to the masses the details of what is and isn’t in a rich person’s tax return. Never mind that Clinton tried the “doesn’t pay taxes” argument in the last campaign, and sounded like an idiot, because all Trump had to say was “I sent in my returns, I was audited, I paid what I owed. You guys wrote the tax laws.”

    2. What fraction of the people who voted for him understand the differences between $500000, $5000000, and $50000000 of annual income? They are all rich-people amounts.

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