An Observation on Trump’s Taxes

The story is shifting, which makes me even more suspicious.

I am struck by the fact that the story keeps shifting over why Trump can’t just hand over his taxes like, you know, all the presidents since Nixon have done. First, it was the implausible argument that he would love to hand them over, but you know, he’s being audited. He is, in fact, constantly audited, it would seem. Second came the argument that since he was elected without handing them over that the matter was closed. After all, election makes all the questions go away, right? Inauguration Day is just one big reset button!

Now we have a new one: Congress is not ‘smart enough’ to examine Trump’s tax returns, Sarah Sanders says. Sanders said the following on Fox News Sunday today:

“Frankly, Chris, I don’t think Congress — particularly not this group of congressmen and women — are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump’s taxes will be,” Sanders said. “My guess is most of them don’t do their own taxes, and I certainly don’t trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything.”

While I think that Trump should turn over his taxes, if anything because a president (really, a candidate) ought to have to demonstrate basic transparency in terms of financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest, I am not necessarily assuming that his tax returns will be his undoing.

Still, the fact that he seems so unwilling to cooperate and, moreover, the fact that the story keeps evolving actually makes me all the more suspicious.

BTW, this is nonsense:

She added that the Democratic effort puts “every American” in jeopardy.

“If they can single out one, they can single out everybody,” she said.

There are legitimate reasons for the public, and for Congress, to want to see the returns, including emoluments-related reasons that come straight out of the US Constitution. There is also a multi-decade norm being broken that should not remain broken. The request to see his taxes is, in no way, some broader threat to “every American” and Sanders should be embarrassed for her ongoing shilling for Trump (although I think it is firmly established that that is not an issue for her).

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. SenyorDave says:

    Sander should be embarrassed for her ongoing shilling for Trump (although I think it is firmly established that that is not an issue for her).

    I actually don’t have a problem with a press secretary shilling for the president, it really is part of the job. The problem is that she is a disingenuous lying sack of crap. I think of it like the famous line in Casablanca where Rick tells Ugarte: I don’t mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one.

  2. CSK says:

    The very fact that Trump doesn’t want me to see his returns makes me want to see them. I don’t know what it is, quite: Is he “a clown living on credit,” as someone said of him? Is he laundering money? Is he involved in tax fraud? All three? I don’t know. But the fact that Trump is desperate to conceal his returns should make anyone suspicious.

  3. Teve says:

    since none of the Trump chumps are here yet I’ll fill in for them:

    Whatabout Hillary and Obama? Why didn’t they release Their tax returns for last year? I guess liberals are okay with covering up Hillary’s kickbacks for selling all of America’s uranium????

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Sarah Sanders is even slimier than her father (and that’s really saying something)…the fact that she slithers around for this pig will hopefully lead to her having the same fate as Kirstjen Nielsen (being unemployable once she gets cut off from this crowd)…of course, with wingnut welfare, I’m sure she’ll do just fine…

  5. M. Bouffant says:

    I certainly don’t trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has

    Successful bankruptcies, frauds, & business failures?

  6. reid says:

    And to be clear, there is nothing about being “under audit” that prevents him from releasing his taxes, so everything about this is utter BS. What else is new.

  7. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Folks, It’s simple: Trump watched Zero Mostel in “The Producers“, and knew that he could do it all and more without the challenge of having a hit.

    After all, you can make much more money on a flop that a hit. And people were shocked that he could bankrupt a casino.

    I mean… C’mon! He even copied Zero Mostel’s hair !!!

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Sanders is correct to say they can get anyones tax return. Which they’ve been able to do since nineteen twenty whatever. Getting Trump’s returns changes this in no way. She’s also right that congress is not smart enough to examine the returns. Which is why they’ll of course hire professionals.

    Trump’s sister’s resignation to foreclose investigation argues for something serious, but I believe the fraud in question is way before the six years of returns in question.

    I also have no idea what Trump is hiding. But given it’s Trump we should be prepared for it not being a smoking gun, but stuff that’s stupid, clownish, and petty.

  9. Kathy says:

    I wish one journalist would ask her “Aren’t you even a little embarrassed to be spouting bullshit for your boss?”

  10. DrDaveT says:


    I wish one journalist would ask her “Aren’t you even a little embarrassed to be spouting bullshit for your boss?”

    You don’t even need that much confrontation. They should just laugh at her. Laugh out loud when she spouts bullshit. Laugh out loud when she says laughable things. That’s really all it would take, is for nobody to take her pronouncements seriously.

  11. Guarneri says:

    C’mon man. It’s because they are fodder for propagandists. This isn’t supernatural.

    Spare me the tin foil hat concerns that have littered leftist blathering for two years.

  12. RWB says:

    Lets be clear; no one is calling for Trump to release his taxes. The House Ways and Means Committee is requesting Trumps tax returns from the IRS, not from Trump. The request is based in law, and cannot be legally refused. The returns are required by law to be kept confidential, so the public will never see them unless there is a criminal conflict of interest. Talking as if his returns will be “released” just fits into Trump’s talking points.

  13. Scott F. says:

    This new story, Steven, is the White House’s tell. They know they have a losing hand based on the law. His taxes will be seen and they will show that he’s at least a fraud, if not a criminal. The ‘smart enough’ framing is setting the stage for when these legal documents with his signature are made public and show he’s not nearly as successful as he claims. Trump’s base will be all set to get the gaslighting counter-narrative:

    “It’s just that the doltish Congress and simpleton Press can’t understand the sophisticated financial mechanisms someone as honest and brilliant as Mr. Trump would use to keep the government from getting his hard earned money.”

    As Guarneri shows above, Sanders needn’t have bothered. Trumpkins are always eager and ready to be lied to – it’s what earns them membership in the Club.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “If they can single out one, they can single out everybody,” she said.

    I know she meant to say “anybody”, but I still have to laugh at the utter inanity of her statement.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Given the power and the access and the ability that a U.S. President has, it has always been a potential worry that he would use such to make money off his attributes. Attributes which are not available to any other U.S. citizen.

    Countries which are embroiled in corruption tend to destroy themselves.

    Maybe you aren’t worried about Trump making money off his position as POTUS and aren’t worried about who else might have had mitts into his finances in the past, but that says a lot about you, doesn’t it. A POTUS is supposed to be a Servant of the U.S. People, not a bargain-basement sleazoid greedily milking access to his position for what he can sell it for.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    A POTUS is supposed to be ……………. a bargain-basement sleazoid greedily milking access to his position for what he can sell it for.

    What’s not to like?

    ETA: besides, your comment demonstrates an obvious anti sleazoid prejudice. You should try harder to love your fellow “human being”.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Drew (Guarneri) is a team player. If it was Obama…damn right he’d be screaming for those tax returns.
    But it’s his guy…the guy with the fake tan and the fake teeth and the phony comb-over and the tiny mushroom dick…so why can’t we take off our tin-foil hats and just trust the man?

  18. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: usually when conservatives fall this hard for a guy who is so fake, he’s telling them about The Lord-uh. 🙂

  19. Joe says:


    The very fact that Trump doesn’t want me to see his returns makes me want to see them.

    While I would be very surprised, I chuckle to think that this “please, please don’t disclose at my taxes” might just be his briar patch (for Bre’er Rabbit fans).

    Congress should see them if they want to see them. Trump has certainly given good cause, and while I know they are being turned over on a “confidential” bases, I cannot agree with RWB that, once in the hands of an unfriendly Congress that they won’t be leaked.

  20. Kathy says:

    Do you ever wonder if the GOP establishment are like the adults in the Twilight Zone classic episode “It’s a Good Life”?

    Choice quote form the plot summary: The people live in fear of him, constantly telling him how everything he does is “good.”

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    Now it’s two questions you can’t answer:

    1) What is the innocent plausible explanation for Trump refusing to have any other American present when he meets with Putin?
    2) Why won’t Trump release his taxes?

    You can’t answer either question because both questions point to Trump’s guilt and you lack the integrity to do anything more than whine, ‘c’mon man.’

    Brain dead cultie.

  22. Michael Cain says:

    A meaningful tax return release from Trump for a single year would fill binders. It’s not just his personal returns, which will not reflect the actual assets and income he controls, but for the more than 500 LLCs which he directly or indirectly controls. At a minimum, you would want to see the Form 1065 (distributions) for each of the LLCs which have more than one member, all of the worksheets for pass-through income from the single-member LLCs, and tax returns for LLCs which chose to pay taxes rather than doing pass-through or distributions.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I think their are several reasons Trump doesn’t want to release his tax returns, but I suspect his number one concern is that they are full of fraudulent statements and if they are made public there are many people and entities who will see them as fraudulent.

  24. just nutha says:

    @Guarneri: Just what would propagandists be propagandizing in his returns? (and again, you don’t have the intellect for snappy rejoinders, so you should stop trying to make them)

    I’ve always thought that the big objection is that they will show
    1) that his business ventures are not complex enough to require even 10s of pages, let alone thousands
    2) that he’s not as successful as he claims to be
    3) heavily leveraged assets that don’t really produce much income.
    In other words, they’ll show a guy more like our friend Drew/Guarneri than a billionaire financial/real estate wizard; nothing to be particularly ashamed of (I’ll pass on the money laundering until I see an indictment for this particular comment) but clearly not what he claims.

  25. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @just nutha:

    ….But clearly not what he claims.

    That’s the thing…he’s really just a fraud.
    He isn’t what he says he is.
    He hasn’t done anything he said he would do.
    You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

  26. CSK says:

    @Kathy: Very apt. Apropos of nothing, I have a copy of the short story that episode was based on, written by Jerome Bixby (1953): “It’s a Good Life.”

  27. Kathy says:


    I just learned today it was based on a short story. I kind of recall seeing the episode in one or another TZ marathon which were popular in the 90s for some reason, or in one of the many reruns at odd times.

  28. DrDaveT says:


    I just learned today it was based on a short story.

    The short story was pretty obscure (in general public terms) until the TZ episode. It was anthologized in 1971 as part of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame series, which was purchased by many libraries and greatly increased the story’s exposure.

  29. Teve says:

    Trump’s people seem to be arguing now that the law is unconstitutional??? I’m not a lawyer but read this shit.


  30. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT: I have it in a 1963 (third printing paperback) of Alfred Hitchcock Presents More Stories for Late at Night, which also includes “The Fly” by George Langelaan and “The Sound Machine” by Roald Dahl. I have no recall of where I picked this up–probably a used bookstore somewhere.

  31. Kathy says:


    I know lots of SF movies in the 70s were based on rather obscure novels or stories. Movies such as Logan’s Run (great movie) and Soylent Green. I wouldn’t be surprised if many TZ eps are too, especially those that are more plot-driven rather than visual.

    BTW, the most horrifying ep I can recall is “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”. I find the ending so heartbreaking, I’ve never seen the episode again.

  32. Kathy says:

    Back more on topic, El Cheeto is ranting about the Mueller report again. This tells me he’s seen it, or more likely someone told him what’s in it, and there’s some damaging stuff there.

  33. Teve says:

    @Kathy: I saw this on his Twitter feed a couple hours ago

    President Trump Retweeted

    Donald J. Trump
    The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax. That is, never forget, the crime…..

    is he trying to get Mueller’s people to leak?

  34. Kathy says:


    That’s what I saw.

    I don’t know what he intends, he probably doesn’t know either, but that’s a really inexplicable attitude by someone who claims the report exonerates him.

  35. dazedandconfused says:


    He intends to stall the release as long as possible, and for a POTUS with a Senate in his back pocket possible is a long time.

    When a President refuses to enforce a law Congress has but two choices: Impeachment or possibly an order from the Supreme Court, the later is 18 months to a couple years away.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    …and there’s some damaging stuff there.

    Well of course there is…why else would his flunky, Barr, not release the whole thing…

  37. Kathy says:

    On related news, Bernie Sanders released ten years of tax returns. He appears to be one poor Senator .

    Other Democratic candidates have released their tax returns.

  38. al Ameda says:

    Tactically, Democrats need to adopt Republican tactics. Republicans kept the heat on Hillary for 4 years, with the openly stated purpose of damaging her for the 2016 election campaign. One investigation after another yielded no result, that didn’t matter, they were going to press on until they could fix the result, or at the least generate a lot of negative publicity on her. It worked.

    Democrats should keep the heat on Trump, keep reminding everyone that not only has Trump not released his taxes, but be relentless in messaging Trump’s corruption. Keep on with House investigations, repeatedly force Trump to deny that he’s corrupt, to deny that he’s a Russian asset, that he does not launder Russian money. Make him deny it. Regular ads should feature that audio tape of Trump bragging about harassing women.

    There is a lot that Democrats can do here. They should not apologize for any of it, Republicans never do. Stop the 2019-2020 apology tour now.