Donald Trump’s repeated calls to end investigations during his State of the Union address were taken by many as a threat, but if Democrats in the House saw it that way, they’ve answered that threat with a big pushback. On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee voted to expand its investigations into foreign connections involving Trump to countries other than Russia, and Intelligence isn’t the only committee making moves Trump is going to hate. As ABC News reports, the House Ways and Means Committee will meet on Thursday to begin the process of getting its hands on Trump’s tax forms.
The Oversight Subcommittee will gather on Thursday morning to listen to experts on tax policy and consider the steps under law for looking at the tax forms of an individual. There seems little doubt that the law requires that the forms be produced on a simple request from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In fact, a majority vote in the committee would be enough to make Trump’s taxes public.
But Trump is preparing to fight back. The White House has assembled battle plans for ways in which the Treasury Department can attempt to block, drag its feet, and refuse to obey lawful instructions from Congress. This won’t necessarily stop Congress from obtaining Trump’s tax forms, but it could force harsh confrontations with the White House, mandating charges of contempt, and locking up the House with deliberately slowed-down negotiations that could stall any release by months.
Trump initially promised that he would release his tax forms before the election. Then he didn’t. Then he claimed that he couldn’t release them because they were under review by the IRS. Which is ridiculous. It’s now clear—has been clear for years—that Trump has no intention of releasing his tax forms, ever.
The reason for this may seem baffling. Since Trump is unlikely to have decorated his 1040A with line-item deductions labeled “Russian bribes,” it may seem there’s little to learn from Trump’s tax forms. In fact, little is exactly what could be learned—as in, how little Donald Trump really has compared to his extravagant claims. It’s not just that Trump’s taxes are likely to reveal that his vast wealth is a sham on par with his “university”; it’s that this lie is directly connected to why Russia, and others, have such a direct hold on Trump’s actions.
As court documents and snippets of testimony fill in the rough outline of what really happened in the 2016 election, and in the years proceeding that inauspicious time, the biggest factor on all sides seems to be simply money.
Russia had other motives for its involvement. Promoting Trump allowed it to test the effectiveness of social media warfare and the simple, malicious use of implements that internet giants were making available at a fee. And having a direct hand in U.S. policy allowed Russia to weaken America’s alliances in Europe and the Middle East with ridiculous ease, laying waste to decades of progress with a scrawl of Trump’s magic marker. But one of the policies Russia was most anxious to change was the sanctions that prevented the top circle of Kremlin oligarchs from effectively taking what they’d stolen from their people and converting it into resources around the globe. That was the focus of the Trump Tower meeting in New York, and the core of conversations that Trump surrogates had with Russian agents again and again.
For Trump, it was always about the money. He didn’t pitch in with Russia because of any ideological sympathies, and it didn’t require a fat file of kompromat to make him behave as Vladimir Putin wanted. Trump did what the Russians wanted because he’d been doing it for years already, coordinating with them in a series of real estate deals that had dragged him out of the gutter after his repeated failures as a casino magnate, and keeping his stumbling “empire” alive as he bounced from fiasco to fiasco.
By 2016, Donald Trump was skating on the edge. Several times that year, analysts marveled at just how little Trump was actually contributing to his own campaign. Far from being a self-funded marvel, Trump was incredibly tight with his own money, while channeling campaign funds back to himself through “rentals” at Trump Tower, use of Trump hotels, and payments to his own companies for “services.” At the same time, Trump was attempting to get a loan from Deutsche Bank. A loan the bank denied.
Trump didn’t just want the money that his real estate deal with Russia promised; he needed it. USA Today estimated that the Trump Organization sold $35 million in real estate in 2017, but that’s a small fraction of what Trump needs to keep his juggling act going. Forbes reported last year that Trump’s revenue streams are drying up.
For the last decade, Trump has been on a treadmill, plowing $400 million of the money he’s “earned” by selling condos to Russians at many times their market value into buying more properties so he can repeat the process. A slowdown in those purchases means that Trump is skating very near the edge.
Which is a really good reason for House Democrats to look into exactly why foreign investors plunged record amounts into Trump’s inaugural fund, and what foreign connections he’s depending on now. And that’s just what they’re doing.