The Guy Who Demanded Obama’s College Transcripts Won’t Release His Tax Returns

I know our memories are short. But this just happened four years ago.

That is Donald Trump demanding to see President Obama’s college applications, college transcripts and passport applications. He says he’ll give $5 million to charity if Obama releases them. Given what we know now about the Trump Foundation and the candidate’s charitable giving, that offer was probably never honest in the first place.

But it’s interesting that Trump calls Obama “the least transparent president in the history of this country.” I’m not sure what that makes Trump. All I do know is that four years later he is running for that office and has refused to release his tax returns or anything related to his corporate financials. That led the Washington Post to call Trump the “least transparent U.S. presidential candidate in modern history.”

What is even more interesting than the lack of transparency is the reason the Trump campaign is giving for their unwillingness to release these records. Here’s Donald Trump Jr. on that:

“He’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from [his father’s] main message,” Trump Jr. said in a Wednesday interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Aside from the fact that it’s hard to imagine anyone having a 12,000-page tax return, Jr. is saying that it would raise too many questions. I thought immediately of what NTY Public Editor Liz Spayd said about the reporting on the Clinton Foundation.

In the case of the Clinton Foundation, The Times started with a legitimate issue: did the former secretary of state give improper access to foreign countries that donated tens of millions of dollars to her family foundation? That’s a question voters deserve to have answered.

One has to wonder if the same holds true for Donald Trump’s taxes. Are they a question that voters deserve to have answered? When it comes to the Clintons, those questions have been asked and (for the most part) answered. But on Trump’s personal and business finances, the questions remain. Kevin Drum does a fantastic job of summarizing what’s going on here.

It’s pretty obvious that these records would put Trump in a bad light, and the reason he doesn’t release them is that he figures the hit from being non-transparent is less than the hit he’d take from voters knowing the truth. He’s almost certainly right about that, but only because he’s not really taking much of a hit from being non-transparent. The only way to force candidates to be accountable is to hold their feet to the fire if they aren’t, and this just isn’t happening with Trump.

Where’s the fire on that one Ms. Spayd?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.