President Donald Trump and his lawyers must think we, the American people, just fell off the turnip truck yesterday. Trump, who has notoriously refused to release his tax returns throughout his election campaign and now presidency, has had his lawyers tell the people about his taxes, yet still refused to release them.
Like we should trust lawyers, much less Trump lawyers? The public, Democratic officials, and even some Republican officials want a look at Trump’s taxes especially in terms of what foreign financial ties it could reveal. That means Russia. Indeed, Trump has received some money from Russia, but his lawyers promised they are only a “few exceptions.”
The New York Times reported:
‘President Trump’s lawyers say his income tax returns do not show income from Russian sources or debt owed to Russians, with the exception of $95 million paid by a Russian billionaire for a Trump-owned estate in Florida and $12.2 million in payments in connection with holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.’
The White House released a letter from Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson, lawyers with Morgan Lewis & Bockius. Trump mentioned this letter during his interview with NBC’s Lester Holt saying he had a “certified letter.” You know, because certified letters mean the absolute truth and nothing but the truth. Remember, Richard Nixon’s lawyer lied and went to jail during Watergate.
Also in the letter, the lawyers did acknowledge that Trump could have profited from third-party entities doing business with the Russians.
‘…over the years, it is likely that TTO or third-party entities engaged in ordinary course sales of goods or services to Russians or Russian entities, such as sales / rentals / fees for condominiums, hotel rooms, rounds of golf, books or Trump-licensed products (e.g., ties, mattresses, wine, etc.) that could have produced income attributable to Russian sources (such income would not have been separately identified as “Russian” in your books and records and therefore not separately reflected on your tax return).’
So, Trump could have sold a mass amount of Trump ties, Trump mattresses, Trump wine, Trump steaks, Trump water, Trump whatever and profited from Russians, and his books wouldn’t even show it. His lawyers noted that the income from that would be “immaterial.”
However, some experts are criticizing the statements by Trump’s lawyers. Tax law professor at the University of Southern California, Edward Kleinbard, commented:
‘You would have to dig down to books and records of underlying entities to see components…’
The New York Times noted that Trump could still have investments in other business dealings that he does not outright own, which could then have debts owed to Russia. Therefore, it’s still reasonable to question whether Trump has conflicts of interest. They also wrote:
‘These types of loans have never been made public, as the financial disclosure report issued during the election campaign only detailed loans given to companies he controls, leaving his full list of potential lenders unknown.’
Furthermore, Democrats aren’t taking the letter at face value. Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) tweeted in response to the statement:
‘Exceptions?#CongressMustRequest a closed session review of @POTUS #TaxReturns to help understand the full extent of #TrumpRussia story.’
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) May 12, 2017
The only true way of thoroughly investigating Trump’s business dealings with the Russians is to subpoena his tax returns as well as his books and go through them with a fine tooth comb. With his recent firing of FBI Director James Comey perhaps Trump feels he’s circumventing that. However, the American people and Democratic officials refuse to forget. An ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that 74 percent of people polled believe he should release his tax returns. A certified letter from two lawyers is not enough to suffice. #CongressMustRequest
— Christine Beswick (@bychristinebswk) May 9, 2017
Featured image by Win McNamee/Getty Images.