|Trump's most taxing questions
By Mark Alexander
Recently after being pummeled in the 10th GOP primary debate, Donald Trump demonstrated once again that he is the undisputed media master. As the mainstream media (MSM) prepared to devote the day's news to the beating Trump took from Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (both of whom defeat Trump head-to-head), the most "establishment" of establishment candidates stepped up to endorse Trump.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose own campaign fell flat, joined Trump at a rally and threw his weight behind the pro-promoter, effectively diverting attention from the previous night's debate.
Christie, in an opportunistic bid for an attorney general appointment, declared, "Always beware of the candidate for public office who has the quick and easy answer to a complicated problem. ... I just don't think that [Trump] is suited to be president of the United States. ... We do not need reality TV in the Oval Office right now. [The presidency] is not a place for an entertainer. ... Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. ... [If you vote for Trump] we could wind up turning over the White House to Hillary Clinton for four more years."
Wait, that's what Christie said before he endorsed Trump. But now he has pledged allegiance to Trump, declaring, "The best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November ... is undoubtedly Donald Trump."
"Undoubtedly"? Reputable polls consistently show Trump to be the only remaining Republican candidate who loses to Hillary in a head-to-head matchup.
Trump knows how to work the media as well as he does a crowd. But as I wrote in "The Trump Freight Train," Caveat Emptor: "Virtually none of his adoring media has devoted any bandwidth challenging Trump's long list of prevarications — at least not yet. And the list keeps growing. If Trump sews up the Republican nomination, the mainstream media will stop appeasing and start tearing him apart ahead of the general election — they will eviscerate him. And there is so much to hang around Trump's neck that the barrage will be relentless until the last general election vote is cast."
Mark my words: There's a bottomless pit of Trump material that hasn't YET been aired, and Democrat opposition research teams will hand it all over to their MSM enablers as soon as Trump wraps up the Republican nomination.
Over the last eight months, I have devoted a few columns to the Trump phenomenon and the danger he poses to something far more important than the Republican Party — Liberty. I have assessed the Trump attraction, his "New York values," his inexcusable diversionary tactics of playing the "9/11 Card" and the "Veterans Card," and have asked, "If Trump is the answer, what is the question?"
But beyond that critical analysis, there is the deadly serious issue of Trump's tax returns — which he has perennially resisted releasing. Every Trump supporter should be asking one question: What is my preferred candidate trying to hide?
Trump has refused for years to release any verifiable tax information, particularly anything that might reveal his actual net worth or the organizations he supports. He has implied that it's just too complex and too long for us rubes, or blamed lawsuits, ad infinitum...
In a recent debate, Trump claimed, "I want to release my tax returns but I can't release it while I'm under an audit." He added (with a straight face, no less) that he's being audited "because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian." Both of those assertions are false.
It's worth noting that he and other candidates did file some information with the Federal Election Commission last July, but that information is so broad as to be meaningless and does not begin to provide insights into who and what Trump has supported in recent years. Notably Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio released profile tax returns for the last five years, which provide much more detail than the FEC filings. They challenged Trump to do the same.
The pressure to stop evading the tax return requests made news again, when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney pushed for the release of Trump's tax records from recent years because voters "have a right to know if there's a problem in those taxes before they decide."
Romney, who reluctantly released his own records in 2012, insists that the billionaire's failure to disclose tax returns suggest he's hiding something.
"I think we have good reason to believe that there's a bombshell in Donald Trump's taxes," declared Romney. "I think there's something there. Either he's not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is or he hasn't been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay or perhaps he hasn't been giving money to the vets or the disabled like he's been telling us he's been doing. And the reason I think there is a bombshell in there is because every time he's asked about his taxes, he dodges and delays and says, 'Well we're working on it.'"
Trump responded with his standard scorched-earth rhetoric: "Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope! I'm going to do what Mitt Romney was totally unable to do — win!"
The question of Trump's net worth may account for some of his evasion because he has crafted his entire persona around his billionaire image. He's based his campaign on two central claims: He's rich and he's a populist. The polls prove the latter, but he is very defensive about any encroachment on the veracity of the former.
Trump is so sensitive about his billionaire image that in 2011 he launched a $5 billion libel lawsuit against a New York Times reporter who dared suggest that Trump may not be worth as much as he insists he is.
That reporter, Tim O'Brien, wrote in his book, "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald," that "[t]hree people with direct knowledge of Donald's finances, people who had worked closely with him for years, told me that they thought his net worth was somewhere between $150 million and $250 million. By anyone's standards this still qualified Donald as comfortably wealthy, but none of these people thought he was remotely close to being a billionaire."
Trump insisted that his reputation was severely damaged by O'Brien's claim, but he lost both the original lawsuit and his appeal. According to the New Jersey Superior Court:
"It is indisputable that Trump's estimates of his own worth changed substantially over time and thus failed to provide a reliable measure against which the accuracy of the information offered by the three confidential sources could be gauged. ... The materials that Trump claims to have provided to O'Brien were incomplete and unaudited, and did not contain accurate indications of Trump's ownership interests in properties, his liabilities, and his revenues, present or future."
During the case, Trump refused to allow the court to review his tax returns, which would have put to rest the question of his net worth.
Fortune Magazine, which annually rates the wealthiest Americans, noted the difficulty they have in assessing Trump's wealth:
"That difficulty is compounded by Trump's astonishing ability to prevaricate [emphasis added]. No one is saying Trump ought to be held to the same standards of truthfulness as everyone else; he is, after all, Donald Trump. But when Trump says he owns 10% of the Plaza hotel, understand that what he actually means is that he has the right to 10% of the profit if it's ever sold. When he says he's building a '90-story building' next to the U.N., he means a 72-story building that has extra-high ceilings. And when he says his casino company is the 'largest employer in the state of New Jersey,' he actually means to say it is the eighth-largest." (That was before Trump's bankruptcies...)
So, it's obvious that Trump will go to great lengths to avoid any third-party assessment of what he claims to be worth, and he'll suppress any other assessment that does not fit his altered reality. He declared, "One of the things I'm gonna do if I win, is I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles we can sue them and win lots of money."
But while the speculation about his wealth may seem trivial to some, what cannot be seen as trivial are the questions of who and what Donald Trump has supported with all that wealth over the last five years. Romney might be onto something when he suggests, "Perhaps he hasn't been giving money to the vets or the disabled like he's been telling us," but I think this goes much deeper.
We know for example, because federal law requires access to annual filings by 501-C3 entities like the Trump Foundation, that he's sent at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, but over the last five years he only sent $57,000 to veteran support organizations. Some veterans groups are calling Trump out for using them as political pawns — or as I noted previously, playing the "Veteran Card."
Republicans and conservatives should ask, has Trump supported groups opposing the Second Amendment or other leftist assaults on Liberty? We know for a fact that he's personally supported Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other loathsome leftists.
That said, here is my open letter to Donald Trump, as sent to his campaign last month:
Of course, Trump won't respond, and he won't release any of this basic information. In effect, his tax return evasion is a proxy Fifth Amendment assertion of his right against self-incrimination.
In the final analysis, will it make any difference to Trump's loyalists? As I have written regarding the "Obama Effect" on Republican voters, "Seven years of Obama's repressive regime has fomented despair, division and delusion among the ranks of Republican voters — so much so that they some are willing to take leave of their senses and join a cultish movement with a self-promoting charlatan at its head. History is replete with examples of such movements, and the tragic result — the suppression of Liberty." So confused are some Republicans that they no longer can distinguish between "conservative" and "establishment" candidates.
And I believe it's likely that some of Trump's primary voter support is coming not from Republicans but from Clinton crossovers, who want to ensure Trump is her opponent. Political pundits have noted the low primary Democrat turnout — that's because they have been turning out for Trump!
After his Nevada victory, Trump said two things that jumped out at me. First he declared, "We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." And then he added, "When others drop out, I will pick up more. Sad but true." These two statements are perhaps the most truthful words he has spoken in this campaign cycle.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.