Why Trump doesn't want you to see his tax returns

Story highlights

  • Errol Louis: Donald Trump Jr.'s claim that releasing tax returns would be a distraction suggests they would hurt his candidacy
  • Louis: Trump Organization's business deals could cause constant conflicts of interest

Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Donald Trump's son, Donald Jr., recently admitted to a Pittsburgh newspaper that disclosing the candidate's finances would cause political problems, "because he's got a 12,000-page tax return that would create ... financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would distract from [his father's] main message."

The implication here is that these "auditors" could find information that would damage Trump's candidacy for President. Voters are left to guess at what that might be. Here are some things to consider:
    Donald Trump's main calling card, his prowess as a hard-charging businessman, is a double-edged sword in the United States.--but also when it comes to his overseas commercial connections. Trump claims that his nearly 200 deals with foreign partners prove he would be a savvy negotiator as President -- but those same deals also suggest a Trump presidency would be dogged by constant conflicts of interest.
    Trump Jr.: Tax release would change dialogue
    donald trump jr tax returns detract message sot_00000119

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump Jr.: Tax release would change dialogue

    MUST WATCH

    Trump Jr.: Tax release would change dialogue 00:58
    It's not enough for Trump to pledge that he would stash his entire business in a blind trust run by his children. That's unrealistic: the sprawling Trump Organization, which includes more than 500 individual corporations and licensing arrangements, isn't like a portfolio of stocks that can be handed over to an outside manager.
    Trump's business website lists real estate and hotel projects in Turkey, Canada, Panama, India, Philippines, Brazil and South Korea. Most have Trump's name plastered all over them, making it impossible to hide or disguise his direct financial interest in policies affecting those countries.
    Trump manager: 'Are you calling him a liar?'
    Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway tax returns newday_00012715

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump manager: 'Are you calling him a liar?'

    MUST WATCH

    Trump manager: 'Are you calling him a liar?' 01:45
    As investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald notes in Newsweek: "The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones....Any government wanting to seek future influence with President Trump could do so by arranging for a partnership with the Trump Organization, feeding money directly to the family or simply stashing it away inside the company for their use once Trump is out of the White House. "
    It doesn't help that Trump himself has been vague about how he would handle potential conflicts if elected President. At a Republican debate earlier this year, he offered a confusing word salad about his business empire: " I would put it in a blind trust. Well, I don't know if it's a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it. But — is that a blind trust? I don't know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives. And I wouldn't ever be involved, because I wouldn't care about anything but our country."
    That's a non-starter: Turning his business interests over to his employees and children is the opposite of maintaining the distance that a blind trust would provide.
    The question grows even trickier when we consider the sketchy nature of many of Trump's partners abroad.
    As Eichenwald points out, Trump licensed his name to a developer building a massive complex in Istanbul, Turkey, that was so prominent that the nation's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presided at the project's dedication ceremony.
    But Trump's Turkish partner was an entrepreneur who has since been charged with fuel smuggling, leading Erdogan to call for the Trump name to be removed from the complex in Istanbul. So a President Trump would have a personal financial interest at odds with the legal wishes of a top American ally in a sensitive part of the world.
    Trump in 2014: 'If I run, I'll provide taxes'
    Donald Trump 2014 taxes comment nr_00003906

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump in 2014: 'If I run, I'll provide taxes'

    MUST WATCH

    Trump in 2014: 'If I run, I'll provide taxes' 01:34
    All of which brings us back to the need to see Trump's tax returns, and the financial details of his many foreign deals.
    With fewer than 60 days before we elect a new president, the questions Donald Trump Jr. worried about -- from auditors, voters and the media --are more urgent than ever.