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Juan Williams: Show me Trump’s taxes

The Hill logo The Hill 12/5/2022 Juan Williams, opinion contributor
© Provided by The Hill

As we wait to see what Democrats will do with former President Trump’s tax returns, let’s have a good laugh.

Comedian Dave Chappelle recently told a story on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” about Trump being “an honest liar.”

Chappelle’s joke starts with Hillary Clinton’s serious charge at a 2016 debate that Trump doesn’t pay taxes. 

Trump responds, “That makes me smart.”

Cue the laughs. But wait.

The “SNL” monologue got better.

Chappelle recalled that Trump taunted Clinton. As a rich man, Trump said he knows the “system is rigged” and Democrats won’t change the rigged tax code because “your friends and your donors enjoy the same tax breaks that I do.”

Cue nasty snickering and laughter at Clinton’s expense.

Now here’s the real punchline.

After campaigning as the outsider who dared to say the tax system is unfair to the little guy, Trump won the presidency. 

And once in office, he cut taxes for the high-end investors and corporations. 

Yes, he made the rigged system even worse for the little guy.

The same guy who bragged that only suckers pay taxes used his power to hammer the suckers again.

To show more disdain for taxpaying Americans, Trump also hid his tax returns so his supporters couldn’t see if he paid a dime in taxes.

In 2016, a CNN poll found that 73 percent of registered voters wanted Trump to release his tax returns. That included about half of Republican voters.

But Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns went from being funny to a sad, running joke as he eroded trust in the fairness of our government and in the honesty of our fellow citizens.

While Trump was in power, the Treasury Department refused to release his tax returns to Congress. House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee asserted they could request anyone’s tax documents. Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, shot back that the request served no “legitimate legislative purpose.”

In 1973, President Nixon became the first president to release his tax returns amid controversy over how much tax he had paid since first being elected in 1968.

“People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,” he said in November 1973. Famously, he added: “Well, I am not a crook.”

We can all assume that Trump does not care if people think he is a crook.

This sad joke is on everyone whose tax dollars provide for spending on senior citizens, the troops, police, schools, hospitals, and stoplights. 

The joke is on IRS auditors.

The joke is on spineless federal court judges who delayed Congress’ access to Trump’s tax files until last week, only days before Trump loyalists take over the House. Even Trump-appointed judges now agree that Congress has a legitimate interest in seeing them. 

The joke is on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) which requires candidates to disclose accurate statements of their finances. Without seeing his tax returns, the FEC never knew if candidate Trump lied to them in violation of federal law.

The joke is on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He had subpoena power to find out if Trump’s tax reports revealed possible financial ties to foreign governments. But by all indications he lacked the stomach or was unable to get the returns. He never mentioned them in his final report, and he certainly did not release them. 

Why did Trump hide his returns if they showed him to be so smart?

No one can say for sure. But The New York Times reported in 2020 that leaked tax documents showed he “paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined and reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72 million tax refund that, as of 2020, was the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.”  

Did he see his campaign sinking if it came out that he used losses from so many failing business deals to get out of paying taxes?

Maybe he is not so rich? Maybe he is not so smart after all?

No one will be laughing if it turns out that Trump is one of history’s greatest tax cheats.

There will be tears if we learn that Trump lost so much money as a bad businessman that he only stayed afloat by robbing the U.S. Treasury.

The joke will be on everyone who laughed with Trump while he was making honest Americans look like chumps for paying taxes.

The truth is inching close to coming out.

After years of litigation and clashes between the executive, legislative and judicial branches over the separation of powers, the Supreme Court refused Trump’s request to block the Treasury from turning over his tax returns to Congress.

But House Democrats will only control the Ways and Means Committee for less than a month.

That means the clock is running out for panel chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) to get the full committee vote to issue a report on whether Trump, as president, intimidated the Treasury Department into hiding his tax returns. Americans also want to know if Trump got special treatment from the IRS.

It will be best if Neal simply releases Trump’s tax returns for all to see. 

This act of transparency is not just about our past. It is about our present and future. It is about stopping a bad joke.

Remember Trump is an announced candidate for the next presidential election. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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