Did President Trump pay only a fraction of the taxes he owed? Is he using the tax system as a way of hoarding money like a dragon hoards gold? Or is the latest New York Times story that professes to have access to Trump’s tax returns just another misguided and malicious piece of fiction designed to hand the presidency to Joe Biden?
On Sunday, the NYT published a damning series of articles that set out how much tax the president has paid based upon what it claims are the actual tax returns of Donald Trump. The pieces claim that they have “obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office.”
The paper claims that its team of experts has analyzed documents, but that it will not publish them, and that the documents were supplied by a source that had legal access. But can this source be trusted?
NYT Track Record
Through June and July, the NYT’s grandest story was that of Taliban fighters being paid bounties by Russia to take down U.S. troops. This was a shockwave that – in the public mind – undid much of the work that President Trump has undertaken to ratchet down tensions with the former Soviet Union. If the president were ignorant of such information, or worse, not acting on it, then surely this was a man not to be trusted? The only problem being, it looks like the story was totally false.
Numerous high-ranking military figures, the Pentagon, and just about anyone who would be in the know, has stated categorically that they have not seen any evidence of such bounties. In fact, it seems that until certain media outlets began reporting on them, they just didn’t exist.
And what of the climate change report that the NYT said may never be published under Trump’s presidency? The loyal reporters detailed that scientists – speaking on condition of anonymity, of course – were worried it was being “suppressed.” The Gray Lady boasted that it had managed to obtain a copy, all the while saying that the Trump administration was in the process of trying to stifle a damaging report.
Except for the small fact that it had been publicly available for seven whole months and other newspapers had already reported on it. Even after realizing the error, the paper failed to remove such vignettes as: “Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.”
A Swift Response
Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, was quick to rebut the story. He said:
“The New York Times‘ story is riddled with gross inaccuracies. Over the past decade the President has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government … While we tried to explain this to the Times, they refused to listen and rejected our repeated request that they show us any of the documentation they purport to be relying on to substantiate their claims.”
And naturally, the president himself was not shy in giving his opinion, saying, “Its fake news, it’s made up … Everything was wrong, they are so bad.”
So who is to be believed?
Jonathan Swift famously wrote: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” Whether or not the reporting from The New York Times turns out to be accurate, the damage is already likely done. What remains is how much or how little this story has an impact on the president and his election chances.
Already we see media pundits and social media commentators calling Trump a criminal for his “tax avoidance,” and almost no one taking the time to correct the notion that tax avoidance is a crime. No one has yet to utter the words “tax evasion,” yet the sentiment already exists.
With a long history of the Times throwing political grenades at the president, much of Trump’s base will be unconvinced by yet another story from anonymous sources and documents that the paper refuses to publish. Those who support Joe Biden already believe Trump to be a near-criminal. So it is unlikely that this story will have much impact.
If the last three and a half years had not been littered with fake news stories and openly partisan reporting, allegations that Trump may have been less than truthful about his financial situation could have done him serious damage. But like the boy who cried wolf, the Times may have sown the seed of its own destruction.
Read more from Mark Angelides.