While there is not yet enough evidence to show a connection between the Trump Administration and Vladimir Putin’s Russia there is enough to warrant a full investigation of the possibility. The key to making that determination is Donald Trump’s IRS tax return, a document the President has refused to provide to the public and to the government.
Why is the tax return so important? The answer is simple. It’s the only way Americans can get a complete and honest picture of their President. During the campaign, Mr. Trump was consistent in saying he could not release his returns because the Internal Revenue Service was auditing him. He then would say that his release of IRS Form 278e, a Financial Disclosure document, includes all the necessary information. Unfortunately, neither of those statements is true. There is nothing in IRS rules or in the law that prevents releasing returns while they are under audit and the 278e disclosure form allows for the exclusion of some information. Logic dictates that there will be much more pertinent information inTrump’s 12,000-page tax return than there is in his 104-page financial disclosure form.
Since he won election to the Presidency, though, he has quit singing that tune. Now his aides simply say he will not release his returns — period. Any reasonably objective person would raise an eyebrow upon learning what I’ve just written unless they are hard-core Trump supporters who seem to forgive any distortion, violation or lie told by their Idol. Their attitude is reminiscent of Joe E. Brown’s character in the classic movie Some Like It Hot, where upon learning that the woman he loves is a man he says, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
After less than a month in office, Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest for any new President in the history of polling. In the meantime, there are almost daily anti-Trump demonstrations, regular media reports that offer concrete evidence of his lies and the record number of leaks coming from his own White House staff. One would think those occurrences might be enough for him to have second thoughts about being more transparent. But, they do not. It seems as though the more negative the news the more he “hunkers” down. Recently when confronted with his sliding poll numbers he dismissed them as “Fake news just like the polling during the campaign.” But the campaign polling about his likability and public approval were correct. The polls clearly showed that he won the election not because he was loved but because people disliked him less than they disliked Hillary.
If it was me I would be thinking that we have to do something about this popularity problem and not just because he is a narcissist. He needs popularity to get support even from his own party. If Republican House members, in particular, are to vote for Trump’s initiatives they need to see that the public supports them. So a normal person would become more transparent and likely would release his tax returns.
But not Donald Trump. With this incredible intransigence, one cannot help but believe that his reluctance to release tax returns goes far deeper than a desire for privacy. One has to assume that there is information contained within those 12 thousand pages that Trump won’t release. It could be something simple like he’s not as rich as he’d like everyone to believe or that he has given little or nothing to charity or it could be there is a connection to Russia and Vladimir Putin that could prove to not only be embarrassing but perhaps worse.
Many people believe it is the Putin connection and they believe that for several reasons. First, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort did actually have a connection. The FBI is reportedly looking into potential ties Donald Trump’s former campaign manager may have had with Russia. The New York Times reported in August that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine advised by Manafort designated $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for him between 2007-12. It is unclear what exactly the series of 22 payments designated for Manafort were for. The FBI’s inquiry revolves around the charge by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the American election.
Secondly Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael T. Flynn is under fire for possibly talking to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration, and whether he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations. Flynn first said no such conversations took place and now he is saying he, “can’t remember.” Also, there is the question of Flynn being paid for a speech he gave about Islamic-related terrorism in late 2015 in which he appeared with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a televised banquet for the state-owned news channel RT. Some members of congress say that “As a retired Army officer, General Flynn was prohibited from accepting direct or indirect payments from foreign governments,” Those two Russian issues could cause Flynn to be the first casualty of the young Trump administration.
And third, there are the discrepancies in how Trump and his closest associates talk about his Russian Ties. Trump has said this, “The reason they blame Russia [for hacking into Democratic emails] is they are trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know about Russia, but not about the inner workings. I have no business there and no loans from Russia. I have a great balance sheet.” That sounds fine, but it is not what his organization said before he announced his run for the Presidency.
In 2008 Trump’s son Donald Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” It is entirely possible that Mr. Trump divested himself of those holdings, but until we see tax returns we can’t know who is telling the truth — and Trump’s record on the truth is not good. Here’s what Politifact says about that. “The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it. A whopping 70 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked during the campaign were false, while only 4 percent were completely true, and 11 percent mostly true.
But back to Russia, even if Trump is telling the truth about not having any loans from Russia and no business there, what about other financial connections with Russians outside their boundaries? The Trump statement quoted above does not rule out such ties, including shared partnership interests, equity interests, joint ventures or licensing agreements with Russia or Russians—both by Trump and his affiliated companies.
And then there is the question of Trump’s other international business dealings. U.S. businesses with financial interests outside of the U.S. are required by law to provide to the IRS detailed information about “any and all” foreign business activity.
There is something very suspicious about a candidate who refuses to turn over income tax returns, defends Vladimir Putin, has a clear record of lying and whose top national security aid may have had illegal or at least unethical contacts with members of the Russian Government.
Perhaps it is time forAmericans of all political persuasions to paraphrase what President Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev; “We’ll trust you, but we need to verify some things (“Trust but Verify”).” Mr. Trump could clear up a lot of questions, just by releasing his tax returns. He owes the American public that much.