Congratulations, Sarah Sanders! You just made the single worst argument for why Donald Trump shouldn’t release his taxes!
Here’s the White House press secretary in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” on why Trump won’t be releasing his tax returns:
“This is all about political partisanship. This is a dangerous, dangerous road and 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. 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.”
OK. So the reason that Trump is the first major party presidential candidate – and President, of course – to release a total of zero of his past tax returns is because Congress is too stupid to understand them? This all checks out! (Worth noting: There are 10 accountants in Congress!)
The “argument” put forward here by Sanders is a variation on a broader Trump theme: That his returns are so complicated – due to his being bigly rich – that no one could possibly understand them. Here’s Trump on the day after the 2018 midterm elections:
“But when you’re under audit – and I’m on a very continuous audit because there are so many companies – and it is a very big company, far bigger than you would even understand. But it’s a – it’s a great company.
“But it’s big, and it’s complex and it’s probably feet-high. It’s a very complex instrument. And I think that people wouldn’t understand it.”
It’s big! It’s feet-high! Very complex instrument!
The whole even-if-we-put-it-out-your-tiny-dinosaur-brains-couldn’t-hope-to-grasp-it argument is simply the latest – and worst – of the excuses Trump and his White House have put forward when confronted over their lack of transparency. The two other main ones:
1) The 2016 election proved that voters didn’t care about Trump’s taxes. “Keep in mind that that’s an issue that was already litigated during the election,” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said earlier this month. “Voters knew the President could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn’t, and they elected him anyway, which of course is what drives the Democrats crazy.”
2) The President is under audit and therefore can’t release his returns. “Now, we’re under audit, despite what people said,” Trump said last week. “We’re working that out as – I’m always under audit it seems. But I’ve been under audit because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name you’re audited. But until such time as I’m not under audit I would not be inclined to do that.” (There is no law against a President – or anyone else – releasing their returns publicly while under audit.)
The point here is simple: Donald Trump could authorize the IRS to release his tax returns tomorrow – or even today! There is zero, legally speaking, that keeps him from doing so. The reason Trump isn’t releasing his taxes is because he doesn’t want to. Because he believes that whatever is in those tax returns is far more dangerous for his political future than the negative press he takes for not releasing them.
That’s it. Case closed. And so, he and his administration will fight to the bitter end to keep his returns from seeing the light of day. And that fight could well wind up before the Supreme Court some day in the not-too-distant future.