Kausar Fatima describes the surmounting difficulties of
former US president
It is more than obvious that Trump’s tax issues has not lost his populist lustre and most of his popular appeal is intact. It is also widely known that many segments in the American political field are trying their best to get Trump out of political arena and the most potent method of achieving this target is to discredit him as much as possible particularly in financial aspect. In this context a long struggle took place between Donald Trump and those who have sought to get reveal something he has defiantly worked to keep private pertaining to his taxes.
Ever since his entry into politics, critics have been keen to get Trump – whose foundational pitch to voters had been that his money kept him immune to the special interests and bribes that make politicians dirty – to show what that wealth actually looked like. He had steadfastly refused. After years of wrangling, a House of Representatives committee, led by Democrats, is finally due to release six years of Trump’s tax returns obtained through this long-running battle to gain greater insights into his finances. The returns stretch from 2015 through 2020, covering Trump’s candidacy and time in the White House.
For decades, presidential candidates and officeholders have released their tax returns to the public in the interest of transparency and accountability. The longstanding tradition is mainly about trying to ensure the public that the president is operating free of conflicts and entanglements, and taxes are sort of the window into the financial soul of someone. But Trump crashed all the norms by refusing to release his tax returns as a candidate when he ran for office in the 2016 presidential election. His fierce insistence on the matter invited scrutiny and speculation among critics that he had something to hide – could it be that Trump was not as rich as he claimed, some asked, or that he had paid less tax than he should? Supporters, meanwhile, backed his right to his privacy. After all, there is no legal requirement for a candidate to release their tax returns.
However, over the course of his presidency and afterward, the public has gradually come to gain some insight into Trump’s personal tax history. A great deal of those revelations come from a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation published by the New York Times in 2020, which obtained two decades of Trump’s tax returns from before his time in office. The documents gave unprecedented insight into Trump’s businesses. They revealed he paid little to no federal income taxes over that period and that Trump had reported in his tax filings that his businesses lost significant amounts of money – despite his public boasts of financial success. It was reported that in 2017 Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax despite being a billionaire.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Democrats began using their powers to conduct oversight of Trump once they gained control of the House of Representatives in early 2019. The Ways and Means Committee fought for three years to obtain Trump’s tax returns. The fight went all the way to the US Supreme Court this year, and in November, the justices refused to block the release of Trump’s tax returns to the committee, thereby paving the way for their release. On 21 December, the committee voted to release the tax returns they had obtained to the public with the vote splitting along party lines. The release of the tax documents come mere days before Republicans are set to take over control of the House of Representatives, potentially signaling the end of any continued pursuit of looking into Trump’s finances for the foreseeable future.
It is possible that the US Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, could continue investigations. While Democrats have insisted that they are carrying out necessary oversight functions, Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress have slammed the release of his tax returns. Trump’s camp, on the other hand called the planned release an unprecedented leak by lame-duck Democrats and warned that if this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause. This is a defiant stance Trump has taken though it appears that his position is seriously compromised.
Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, warned that the disclosure unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president but government ethics watchdogs said that requiring presidential candidates and public officials like Trump was essential for maintaining the public’s faith in their leaders and institutions. It was pointed out that it is not appropriate to provide cherry-picked information to the voters based on how amenable a candidate is to disclosing information. They emphasise that it is a bad system for the voter and also a bad system for public trust. This situation has considerably reduced the maneuvering space for Trump and may seriously damage his credibility. TW