The New York Times‘ exposé on Donald Trump’s tax returns suggests that the president has suffered financial losses for many years, resulting in many years when he paid little or no federal income tax.
The Times speculates that the presidency itself is Trump’s only hope to recoup his losses, either through burnishing his brand or using his political power, ignoring conflicts of interest.
But the Times has also succeeded, albeit inadvertently, in debunking several common anti-Trump conspiracy theories.
Russia. The Times found no evidence of any links to Russia that were previously unreported. The tax returns, it says, do not “reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.” All they show is that the 201 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow was “was the most profitable Miss Universe during Mr. Trump’s time as co-owner, and that it generated a personal payday of $2.3 million.” That’s all there is to the vast Russian business interests Democrats hinted (and hoped) the returns would show.
Michael Cohen. Prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the tax returns for a criminal investigation — most likely, having to do with payments via Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen (now a convicted felon), to alleged lovers (including Stormy Daniels). The Times noted: “The materials obtained by The Times did not include any itemized payments to Mr. Cohen.” It added: “The amount, however, could have been improperly included in legal fees written off as a business expense.” That’s it.
The Audit. Democrats and journalists have mocked Trump’s long-standing claim that he could not release his tax returns because he faced an Internal Revenue Service audit. The Times confirmed the audit: “Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.” It is real, just as Trump has claimed.
There are likely other shoes to drop — and it is no accident that the Times has produced this exposé, featuring the Moby Dick of Trump’s opponents, roughly 48 hours before the first presidential debate. Trump’s tax returns, if real, and if summarized correctly by the Times, do not paint a flattering financial picture. Yet they also debunk many cherished left-wing fantasies — and they may confirm what Trump supporters have said since 2016: that he has sacrificed his personal fortune to serve.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.