I am continually mystified by the Trump White House and its public responses to controversies — responses that often magnify the legitimate concerns of the public. That was case this weekend when White House Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders attempted to come up with some plausible rationale for Trump continuing to refuse to release his taxes — a departure from decades of tradition. Sanders declared that “I don’t think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume President Trump’s taxes will be.” It is an attempt to wrap an unjustifiable position within a raw insult to avoid the question. Trump has repeatedly promised to release his taxes but continues to cite the fact that he has been audited as a reason for not turning over the records — a position widely rejected by both tax and legal experts. Now it appears that the collective intelligence of Congress is a barrier to disclosure.
Sanders continued “My guess is most of them don’t do their own taxes, and I certainly don’t trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything.” It is an indicative statement of the new reality in politics where insults replace dialogue. It often seems like our politics have been reduced to the appearance of a professional wrestling match and the the rhetoric of a shock jock.
Obviously, Congress has some of the most experienced experts on tax laws and policy on the staff. I have previously questioned the rationale for seeking all of these years in taxes even though Congress often prevails in such fights.
The problem is time. Congress clearly intends to go to court but good lawyers could easily keep this issue tied up in the courts through the 2020 election. That does not excuse Sanders or this latest transparently weak response to the demand of Congress. It was a statement unworthy of the White House Press Secretary and the Administration.