Saturday, March 18, 2017
With characteristic incoherence, the White House simultaneously boasted that leaked data from President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return demonstrates that Trump paid his fair share of taxes and denounced the “dishonest media” for publishing these flattering facts. But there would be no need for reporters to “illegally” publish such information, to quote the White House’s absurd accusation against MSNBC and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, if Trump himself had simply honored the decades-old tradition of releasing his returns while still a candidate for the office he now holds.
Unless and until Trump releases his returns, including all supporting materials, we are entitled to assume that he has something to hide, whether it’s embarrassingly chintzy charitable contributions, chronic exaggerations of his wealth, business ties to Russia—or some combination of the three. Even tax returns would not constitute sufficient disclosure for a man whose business affairs stretch across states and around the world, as Trump’s do.
It’s true that, shortly before Inauguration Day, Trump pledged to separate himself from his business empire, which was a step in the right direction. But he did so without specifying the extent of his exposure before he signed away operations to his sons.
For the first time in recent history, the presidency belongs to a man with extensive active business investments, creating the potential for conflicts of interest on a correspondingly unprecedented scale. Trump’s response demonstrates ethical cluelessness at best and contempt for this country’s long-standing democratic norms at worst.
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