Tax return leak has Trump White House shook – and it could just be the beginning
On Tuesday evening, MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” leaked Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg and raises far more questions than it answers. The public must have access to all of Trump’s tax returns — not just from 2005, but from all years, and in complete detail. Once we see everything, only then will we understand the full extent of his financial ties to foreign countries and how these entanglements could influence his policies.
Maddow announced that Trump’s 2005 1040 tax returns came by way of David Cay Johnston, founder and editor of DCReport.org, who said he received them in the mail. According to the two-page filing with the IRS, the president earned an income of $153 million that year, paying $5.3 in federal income tax, and an additional $31 million “alternative minimum tax” that Trump wants to eliminate.
Johnston said it is possible that Trump may have leaked the information himself.
“By the way, let me point out that it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump sent this to me. Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things,” Johnston said of the document, which is marked “client copy.”
The White House confirmed the dollar amounts.
“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” the White House said in a statement released immediately before the report.
“It is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns,” the statement continued. “The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans.”
What these returns do not reveal, however, is detail Trump’s sources of income. This is important because it would reveal this president’s financial conflicts of interests.
Trump is the first U.S. president since Watergate to refuse to disclose his federal tax returns. He claimed no one is interested in his taxes and even claimed he could not release it because he was being audited, all fueling speculation he has something to hide. Over 1 million people signed an online White House petition demanding the full release of Trump’s tax returns, citing the Emoluments Clause in Article I of the Constitution, which bars U.S. officials from receiving payments from foreign governments.
“The White House’s willingness to release some tax information when it suits them proves Donald Trump’s audit excuse is a sham,” said DNC Senior Adviser Zac Petkanas. “If they can release some of the information, they can release all of the information. The only reason not to release his returns is to hide what’s in them such as financial connections with Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin.”
Although Trump is president, he is still profiting from his outside business interests and is exposed to foreign influence. Without his tax returns, we do not know for sure. He still owns his hotels — including a hotel in Washington where foreign diplomats stay — and his Mar-a-Lago resort, whose membership fee doubled to $200,000 since the election.
Trump has business ties to Turkey, including a Trump Tower in Istanbul. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, is a foreign agent of Turkey.
The president helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that never opened, with a business partner with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
It was reported that a Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev paid $95 million for Trump’s Palm beach mansion at a $50 million premium for Trump. Rybolovlev has disavowed contact with Trump, yet his private plane was spotted near Trump’s private planes during Trump campaign events, as Maddow reported. Recently, Rybolovlev’s yacht was recently spotted in the British Virgin Islands next to the yacht of Trump’s largest donor and Breitbart news bankroller Robert Mercer. Rybolovlev is also a major shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus, a Russian money laundering institution whose chairman is the former CEO of Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank, which was fined $630 million for Russian money laundering, lent Trump tens of millions of dollars, as Maddow reported. Until recently, the vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus was Wilbur Ross, the new U.S. secretary of commerce.
And the Chinese government just granted Trump 35 trademarks for a wide variety of businesses such as “construction, mining, shipbuilding, shoe repair, restaurants, hotels, golf courses, day care centers, animal training, toy rental, advertising and financial services.” Meanwhile, as Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is negotiating to sell a $400 million stake in his Manhattan skyscraper to a Chinese insurance company tied to the Communist Party. This, as the state-owned Industrial & Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower.
President Trump had his own take on the Maddow report:
Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2017
But without the tax returns, we don’t know how beholden the president is to foreign powers and interests, how liable he is to enact policies that benefit Donald Trump personally, and how much government money he will use to please his foreign partners and fulfill his business obligations. Without the returns, Americans may not know how much of a corrupt banana republic it has become.
Obviously, the man in the White House has something to hide. If Trump does not release complete tax returns to determine his financial ties to Russia, China and others — and he will not — there must be an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this mess.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove.