Yesterday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow endlessly hyped the fact that veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston had obtained President Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. When it was revealed, the scoop didn’t justify the hype. Trump paid 38 million in taxes that year, 24% of his income—not the top rate, but not “nothing,” which was the rumor Democrats were selling during the campaign.
1. Whoever leaked the return broke the law, and doing so was unethical. No, it’s not illegal for the news media to take material stolen by others and sanctify it via their First Amendment protections. It should be though. When they do this, they aide and abet a crime, and Freedom of the Press wasn’t supposed to allow THAT. At very least, journalists should be required to reveal the names of the criminals who steal and release our proprietary documents. The publication of these makes such thefts worse, not better.
2. I don’t see why the President’s tax returns from 12 years ago has any genuine relevance to anything now. The returns were relevant to the decision of whether or not people wanted to vote for him. Now, the tax documents have no purpose, except for the insatiable Trump-bashers to have something new to bash him with. Anything will do.
3. David Cay Johnston was dishing about his “scoop” with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, and decided to start a new rumor. He speculated that Trump leaked the return himself. No evidence, not a drop, and yet that’s what this veteran reporter felt was justifiable to say on national TV. Gee, can we call THAT fake news?
4. Then, as he did with Maddow, the reporter went on about all the conflicts of interest that Trump’s financial dealings have created. Again, this is re-litigating the election. At this point, there is no practical way to eliminate Trump’s conflicts and the appearance of impropriety that they create, and he’s not going to bother trying. Johnston, and others, including me, never made a clear case to the public why the President’s unprecedented financial entanglements should have been disqualifying; nor did Hillary, in part because her own financial entanglements were disqualifying. Well, the train left the station, y’all. You had your chance, and botched it. Johnston, like so many of the other bitter-enders who want to turn back time, ultimately get back to, “But…but…but…we never should have elected this guy! Surely there is something we can do to undo it!”
No, there isn’t. Cut it out.
5. Over at the Washington Post, a clearly disappointed Paul Waldman, one of the paper’s more openly partisan flacks, again started beating the drums for Trump to release all his returns now. Trump should have released his returns during the campaign, but he’d be insane to release them now. There is literally no up-side for him or the nation for him to do that: it will just give his most virulent enemies, whose goal is to bring down his government, more opportunity to insist that he be impeached, or shot, or burned alive. Waldman writes:
“We have never had a president for whom it was more important that we see their returns, because Trump has an extraordinarily complex web of financial interests all over the world, has refused to divest himself of those interests, and has, with his family, obviously seen the presidency as a golden opportunity to cash in. Which is why we all have to keep demanding them, until Trump releases them. It’ll almost certainly require a court order or a congressional subpoena to pry them from his hands, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.”
This is so slimy. How has the President “obviously” treated his office as a “golden opportunity to cash in”? This is a disgusting slur, and there is no reason to say it, or assume it, except to denigrate the President of the United States. Go ahead, keep demanding the returns. Knock yourself out. They are private documents and proprietary information. Moreover, there will be no court orders or Congressional subpoenas absent a specific and subsantive justification beyond “we really hate this guy, and we’ll keep fishing until we get the good on him.”
6. I have protested more than once here that I resent being made to defend Donald Trump. I will resent even more being made to admire Donald Trump, but if he can manage a half-successful administration and get any productive work on behalf of the country done at all in the face of this relentless, hateful, mad and nationally-destructive onslaught, I will admire him.