Although most of the attention in Washington these days regarding Donald Trump has to do with the possibility of his impeachment over allegedly bribing Ukraine to investigate a political rival, there’s another battle involving the Republican president that’s worthy of note.
It has to do with whether a president can be compelled to turn over his tax returns if he won’t voluntarily do so.
One of many conventions Trump defied during his successful run for the presidency was the decades-long habit of major nominees releasing their tax returns. He still refuses, even though every previous president since the mid-1970s had annually released their tax returns while occupying the White House.
The reason Trump cites for his refusal is that his tax returns are under audit. More likely he has other reasons, such as: He’s not as rich as he claims; he’s not been as generous with charities as he claims; he’s got more foreign business entanglements than he acknowledges; and the list goes on.
Not to be deterred, a House committee investigating possible ethics violations by the president and a New York district attorney investigating hush-money payments made to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump have taken him to court. Both have prevailed over the president at every level so far, but Trump has pushed the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide whether to shield Trump’s tax returns from disclosure.
It was humorous, though, to read the argument made to the high court by one of Trump’s attorneys that allowing a criminal probe to proceed — and compelling compliance with a subpoena — would be too much of a distraction from the president’s important duties.
That may be true for some presidents, but Trump loves distraction. His all-hours-of-the-day tweet storms are all about distracting the public from his problems in office and his inability to keep some of his campaign promises.
Since the president believes chaos is an effective governing tool, he shouldn’t object when those outside his circle are eager to help add to it.