Under pressure to release his tax returns, which might reveal that he's not as rich as he claims, Donald Trump changes the subject, implausibly but brilliantly:
Donald Trump’s disclosure that his tax returns have been under review by the Internal Revenue Service for the past 12 years reflects a “very unusual” level of scrutiny by tax authorities, according to a former Internal Revenue Service agent who now works as an accountant for wealthy people.
... Alan Olsen, the managing partner of Greenstein Rogoff Olsen & Co. LLP, an accounting firm in Fremont and Palo Alto, California that caters to wealthy Silicon Valley clients ... said that Trump’s revelation about 12 years of audits is something of a bombshell itself. “If the IRS examines your tax return and finds no issues they will not audit your return again for two years,” he said. “If returns are properly prepared, the IRS typically goes away.”
Mitt Romney, as I'm sure you know, has been baiting Trump on this subject:
The issue moved to the top of the agenda this week after Mitt Romney ... said in an interview with Fox News that Trump’s tax returns may contain a “bombshell.” Romney speculated that Trump’s personal tax documents might show that he is not as wealthy as he has claimed. On Thursday night, Romney needled Trump again, posting on Twitter: “No legit reason @realDonaldTrump can’t release returns while being audited, but if scared, release earlier returns no longer under audit.”
(National Review is now citing a business writer's claim that Trump is worth only $150 to $250 million.)
But Trump, instead of merely stalling for time, has decided -- apparently for the first time -- to claim persecution. That's what's brilliant:
Trump’s disclosure, which emerged during a contentious GOP debate on Thursday in Houston, Texas, was a departure from prior statements about his tax returns. He has previously suggested to interviewers that his campaign was working on preparing the returns for release and that the process was time-consuming because of their complexity.
“For many years, I’ve been audited every year,” Trump said Thursday night. “Twelve years or something like that.”
After the debate, Trump suggested to CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo that there might be an unsavory reason the IRS has targeted him -- because he’s a “strong Christian."
Rank-and-file right-wingers hate the IRS -- and I mean they hate the IRS much more than even the average American hates the IRS. Wingers especially despise the IRS because they've been goaded to do so by the conservative movement and the right-wing media. Recall that last fall a resolution was actually introduced in the House to impeach the IRS commissioner:
House lawmakers have moved to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over accusations he obstructed investigations into the IRS targeting scandal that consumed the agency in 2013.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday filed articles of impeachment against Koskinen, accusing him of stonewalling the probe into the agency's alleged targeting of conservative groups ahead of the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Conservatives have been clamoring for the White House to fire Koskinen, who was not at the IRS during the alleged targeting but has been in charge of the agency since December 2013....
The filing came just hours after Koskinen faced off with Senate lawmakers over the targeting scandal, and just days after the Justice Department announced it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner or any of the other IRS officials involved in the processing of applications for tax-exempt status.
Lerner admitted to directing her division to use search terms such as "tea party" to help identify organizations to devote extra scrutiny to, and blamed budget cuts for not being able to do an even and thorough review of all applications. The officials also filtered for terms like "progressive," but not with the same frequency.
Rabble-rousing organizations on the right -- the people who for years have believed that they could stir up high levels of resentment among conservative voters without turning those voters into an angry, uncontrollable mob (i.e., the Trump base) -- have been pushing for Koskinen's impeachment. I'm talking about Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and other Kochite organizations:
— ATR (@taxreformer) February 26, 2016
It's time to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen! https://t.co/x3qY5z0DaK
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) February 24, 2016
— Judicial Watch (@JudicialWatch) February 11, 2016
Hatred of the IRS has also been ginned up in the Obama years by mainstreamers like Peggy Noonan, who wept for Catherine Engelbrecht -- "a nice woman, a citizen, an American" -- whose organization True the Vote ran into trouble with the agency when it sought tax-exempt status despite its naked partisanship.
And yes, the right thinks the IRS has targeted Christians in the Obama years. Here's Tucker Carlson in 2014 claiming an "assault on people of faith" because the IRS was asked by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to ensure that candidates weren't endorsed from pulpits in tax-exempt churches. (Headline at AllenBWest.com: "Atheist Non-Profit Group Colludes with IRS to Crack Down on Churches.") Here's Fox's Todd Starnes declaring in 2013 that "Several well-known religious organizations say they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, including the ministry founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham and a 180-year-old Baptist newspaper." Here's a 2013 Breitbart story: "James Dobson: IRS Stonewalled Christian Family Org for Being 'Critical of the President.'"
That's what Trump is claiming, too -- and if you're a right-winger, you're probably already primed to believe every such story already, so why not?
Trump claims his audits go back twelve years -- all the way back to the Bush administration, in other words. But I bet angry right-wingers won't do the math, and even if they do, he's gotten away with being critical of George W. all this time, so why stop now? Transcending both parties is part of his brand.
I bet Trump will never release additional tax documents. And I bet he'll get away with it.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog