Trump’s long time advisor and confidant Roger Stone has added his name to the long list of voices calling on The Donald to release his tax returns for public review, responding to a reporters question on the subject “I think he should release his tax returns immediately“.
This comes over a year after Donald made his financial disclosure to Federal Election Commission, which occurred while his own Campaign simultaneously announced that the disclosure he provided was not adequate for someone of his financial stature, saying:
This report was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump’s massive wealth. For instance, they have boxes once a certain number is reached that simply state $50 million or more. Many of these boxes have been checked. As an example, if a building owned by Mr. Trump is worth $1.5 billion, the box checked is “$50,000,000 or more.”
The Donald, showing off the short form of his inadequate financial disclosure. (Photo by: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
(Source: Business Insider)
What’s troubling is not that his campaign doesn’t understand the reason that this disclosure is required, it’s the free pass the mainstream media has been giving to him.
The FEC disclosure is not about showcasing each candidates personal wealth or success in life, as Donald Trump and his campaign seem to believe, but to allow the public the opportunity to review a candidates assets and liabilities in order to be certain they are aware of any conflicts of interest that a candidate might have.
When potential ties between Trump and Russia were being perceived, Donald’s now exited-in-disgrace campaign chairman Paul Manafort announced that Donald had no financial ties to Russia, while Donald tweeted that he had no investments in Russia, while hoping the public would ignore the ample evidence that that isn’t the case, including:
- Trumps purchase of a $40 million Palm Beach estate at the peak of the real estate market and subsequent sale in 2008 for $100 million during the market trough to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev
- The lawsuit Trump settled in 2011 which alleged, among other things, that the TrumpSoho condominiums he was selling had been financed from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.
While he didn’t admit guilt in the settled lawsuit, that there was such an allegation should demand that we be allowed to dig further, if only to find out that our concern is for nothing. How many other financial transactions with the ruling class of our friends and enemies has he engaged in. And, even more vitally, from who has he borrowed?
Aside from allegations of borrowing from “questionable sources in Russia,” the New York Times found that Trump obtained financing from the Bank of China. And, after lambasting Donald Trump on Twitter months ago, Saudi Prince Alweed Bin Talal has been getting active in reminding the world just who Donald owes his fortune to, and helpfully, made a webpage highlighting his dealing with The Donald, complete with a graphic at the bottom:
Given his FEC disclosures inadequacy, the next logical place to look for conflicts of interest and indebtedness would be in the tax returns of Donald Trump and the rest of his organization.
A cursory review of his personal 1040 and the K-1’s he receives from LLC’s and Partnerships he has an interest in, as well as the 1065’s of those same entities would provide far more clarity into the amount and nature of debt that he and his organizations have assumed. The attendant notes in the Form 1065 Partnership return’s would generally disclose who those debts are owed to, by disclosing the recipient of interest payments.
This is the primary reason we need to see Mr. Trumps tax returns.
Personal debt is one of the leading causes for suspension or denial of a security clearance. As the DEA’s Employee Assistance Program related to its staff:
it is the view of OPM [Office of Personnel Management] that “excessive indebtedness” increases the temptation to commit unethical or illegal acts in order to obtain funds to pay off debts
However, all employees should be aware that repeated instances of bad financial judgment, indebtedness in excess of income and financial activities of questionable ethics or legality will be evaluated and could affect one’s Security Clearance.
This isn’t just conjecture – former CIA officer turned Soviet spy Aldrich Ames cited financial pressures as being one of the primary motivators for actions. If it’s required to obtain a security clearance to work at the lowest rungs (no offense to the janitors of the world) of the National Security apparatus, then certainly it should be required of the person assuming control of nuclear launch codes.
Unfortunately, Trump has taken a hard-line stance on the release of his returns, hiding behind the excuse of an IRS audit to not only hold back his current year returns, but withhold all of his returns from prior years as well. It’s doubtless that people will dig into them as eagerly as they did Hillary’s, and debt aside, they stand to open him up to many other questions as well, like:
- How successful is he, really? Considering his success in business is the primary credential he gives in explaining why he is the best person to run the country, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask for more proof than a typed statement.
- What is his tax burden? Despite what is still probably sizable income, it’s likely he pays little to no tax due to the nature of his real estate investments. Where a Bill Gates or Larry Ellison will report huge amounts of dividends (which are taxed more favorably than ordinary income), Trump gets to shelter far more of his income through non-cash expenses like depreciation. This isn’t a crime, so that shouldn’t be reason to be shy with his tax returns, especially when he has boasted about “paying as little as possible” in taxes.
And while he probably squirms at the media and public going through is returns in search of answers for the latter two questions, they are far less material than the first question I raised: How much does Donald owe, and to who? Any candidate who can not disclose such basic information as that ought to be disqualified from seeking public office, let alone the highest office of the land.