Trump *Defense*: You Knew He Was A Tax Cheat When You Elected Him
Last week, Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, asked the IRS for six years of Donald Trump's tax returns. He also won't settle for Attorney General Bill Barr summing them up for him in a text message. Trump plans to fight the request all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, because Congress suddenly behaving like a coequal branch of government again is apparently a "gross abuse of power." Mick Mulvaney, who's been acting like Trump's chief of staff since December, stated yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" that Democrats can expect to see the president's tax returns the day after never.
MULVANEY: You always expect something from the Democrats. If they don't get what they want from the Mueller report, they're gonna ask for the taxes. If they don't get what they want on the taxes, they'll ask for something else.
That's weird. If the Mueller report was the big steaming flop the Trump administration claims, shouldn't they assume Trump's taxes would only embarrass Democrats more? And why would a businessman as good as Trump lies he is want to waste time and money to prevent the release of his perfectly on the up and up tax returns? They're certainly less trouble to dig up than someone's long-form birth certificate.
Mulvaney claims one of the "fundamental principles" of the IRS is to protect the privacy of tax cheats. This esteemed organization that took down Capone can't involve itself in a "political hit job" -- although that kinda implies there's something fishy in the returns. Mulvaney insists it doesn't matter anyway because a minority of US voters fell for obvious Russian propaganda and handed Trump a victory in the Electoral College.
MULVANEY: That's an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns. They knew that he didn't and they elected him anyway.
That's not how elections work. There wasn't a specific ballot measure related to Trump's taxes. Bill Clinton should've had the foresight to pull this back when everyone was sweating him about Monica Lewinsky: "You guys elected me ... twice ... and I actually won the popular vote. Now let me not have sex with interns in peace."
Mulvaney thinks the voters have spoken (at least the really dumb ones) and not that they were simply outwaited by Trump, who promised dozens of times he'd release his returns tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Or just as soon as he was elected. Or when Mitt Romney did. Even sometime Trump foe Mitt Romney -- who Trump called an idiot for waiting too long to release his own tax returns in 2012 -- agrees with Mulvaney that we should just stop asking about them and wasting everyone's time. Utah's junior senator was on "Meet the Press" yesterday, lying about the Affordable Care Act. He suggested Democrats' attempts to demand transparency from the president was "moronic."
ROMNEY: I'd like the president to follow through and show his tax returns. He said he would.... I'd wish he'd do that. But I think the Democrats are just playing along his handbook... Going after his tax returns through a legislative action is moronic. That's not going to happen.
This is classic Mitt. Gosh, he really wishes Trump would make good on his promises, but if Democrats attempt to legally force him to do so, they're no better than Trump. It's not like they're literally charged with oversight over the executive branch. Besides, it'll never work so why even try? Romney used to care about seeing Trump's taxes. He said they likely contained a "bombshell." He once tweeted that "the Donald doth protest too much" and used the hashtag #WhatIsHeHiding. Then he became senator and left his binders full of dignity at home.
Republicans want to protect their feckless leader in advance of the 2020 election. However, the Democrats aren't solely motivated by politics here. Trump has defied longstanding precedent regarding the release of his taxes. If he suffers no political liability for doing so, why would any future candidate bother? And why should it stop there? The president is also under no legal obligation to have an annual physical or disclose its findings to the public. "Orange" you glad we won't be burdened with evidence of the president's obviously deteriorating mental state?
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.