Trump wants you to trust him — blindly

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Milbank

— Don­ald Trump just re­newed his vow of opac­ity.

Asked by ABC News’s David Muir on Mon­day af­ter­noon whether he’d be re­leas­ing his in­come-tax re­turns, as ev­ery other ma­jor-party pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee has done for 40?years, Trump brushed off the in­quiry.

“I think peo­ple don’t care,” the GOP nom­i­nee de­clared.

No? A Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll two weeks ago found that 74 per­cent of likely vot­ers, in­clud­ing 62 per­cent of Repub­li­cans, think Trump should re­lease his tax re­turns.

And for those Amer­i­cans who don’t care, there’s more ev­i­dence ev­ery day that they should. As Trump was again dis­miss­ing the tax-re­turn mat­ter, The Post that af­ter­noon pub­lished an ex­ten­sive re­port by Dana Priest, Ellen Nakashima and Tom Ham­burger lay­ing out what U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials be­lieve is “a broad covert Rus­sian op­er­a­tion in the United States to sow pub­lic dis­trust in the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and in U.S. po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions.”

If Vladimir Putin’s gov­ern­ment — widely be­lieved to be be­hind cy­ber­at­tacks on the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and state elec­tion op­er­a­tions — has this “am­bi­tious” plan to in­flu­ence the elec­tion, it stands to rea­son that Putin would also like to in­flu­ence the can­di­dates. Trump and his ad­vis­ers have taken a strik­ingly pro-Putin line, and Trump and his ad­vis­ers also have had ex­ten­sive fi­nan­cial ties to Rus­sia. There’s one sure way to know how be­holden Trump is to Putin’s regime: re­lease his tax re­turns.

This doesn’t mean Trump is some sort of Manchurian Can­di­date in ca­hoots with Putin. But it’s bad enough if a Pres­i­dent Trump were to feel pres­sure to tilt in Rus­sia’s fa­vor be­cause he was in­debted to Putin-al­lied in­vestors. Trump dis­misses the pos­si­bil­ity as non­sense — so why won’t he come clean with his taxes?

The po­ten­tial for such con­flict is a big rea­son it’s rou­tine for nom­i­nees to re­lease their re­turns. Hil­lary Clin­ton has re­leased al­most 40 years’ worth, Tim Kaine has re­leased 10, and Mike Pence said he’ll re­lease his this week.

When Trump says no­body cares about the re­lease of his tax re­turns, he’s for­get­ting a long list of Repub­li­cans who have called for Trump to dis­close. Mitt Rom­ney, the last Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, called Trump’s re­fusal “dis­qual­i­fy­ing” and spec­u­lated that the re­turns could con­tain a “bomb­shell.”

Much has been made of Clin­ton’s al­lergy to trans­parency, and I don’t ex­cuse her ob­ses­sive


se­crecy over her emails and her nearly 280 days with­out a news con­fer­ence. Clin­ton and Trump should both re­lease more med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion.

But when it comes to trans­parency, Trump is by far the big­gest of­fender. He’s still ban­ning The Post and other news or­ga­ni­za­tions he doesn’t like. Clin­ton re­leased the names of her top money-rais­ing “bundlers”; Trump re­fuses. Clin­ton has said the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion would stop tak­ing for­eign and cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tions if she were elected (she should go fur­ther, by sev­er­ing all fam­ily ties with the foun­da­tion) while Trump has no plans to min­i­mize such con­flicts of in­ter­est — or even to dis­close them.

Trump’s ex­cuse, that he’s wait­ing for au­dits to end, has no le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. His own ac­coun­tants have said his au­dits from 2002 to 2008 have been “closed,” yet his re­turns from those years re­main un­re­leased.

Do the un­re­leased re­turns il­lus­trate shady con­nec­tions? The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported last week that Trump’s real es­tate in­vest­ments “brought the GOP nom­i­nee into reg­u­lar con­tact with peo­ple who had ties to or­ga­nized crime.” Do they show (as ear­lier re­turns did) that he paid lit­tle or noth­ing in taxes? Do they con­firm re­port­ing by The Washington Post’s David A. Fahren­thold that Trump has been stingy with char­i­ties?

Very likely, they would show that Trump has a great deal of debt owned by for­eign in­ter­ests that don’t nec­es­sar­ily share his Amer­ica First views. The New York Times re­ported re­cently that com­pa­nies di­rectly owned by Trump hold at least $650 mil­lion in debt — twice the amount that could be found from his cam­paign dis­clo­sures — and much of Trump’s wealth is in three in­vest­ments that owe an ad­di­tional $2 bil­lion.

Wealthy can­di­dates run­ning for high of­fice typ­i­cally prom­ise to put their in­vest­ments in a “blind trust” so they can avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est by not con­trol­ling, or even know­ing about, their fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests. But Trump has no plan to do that; he says he’ll have his chil­dren run the busi­ness while he runs the coun­try.

By re­fus­ing to dis­close his fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, and by de­clin­ing to re­move any po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est he has with Putin and other for­eign en­ti­ties, Trump has come up with a dif­fer­ent no­tion of blind trust: He wants us to trust him, blindly.

Dana Milbank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­

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