As CNN’s John Harwood said during Sunday evening’s breaking news coverage, the story is “a devastating picture of a president who is bleeding financially and is depending on his presidency to prop him up financially.”
The Times’ front page on Monday has a six-column, two-line headline — which is just about as big as it gets in print. The headline says “PRESIDENT’S TAXES CHART CHRONIC LOSSES, AUDIT BATTLE AND INCOME TAX AVOIDANCE.”
A public service
As Oliver Darcy said in a text message to me, “Trump’s supporters who are locked in the Fox bubble where this will be handled with kid gloves. And they have been conditioned to believe that NYT is an arm of the Democratic machine.”
Perhaps he’s right. Most minds are made up and some votes are already being cast. But the dollar figures in the story are still astonishing. I think the tax avoidance story is singularly important because it fills in a big part of Trump’s portrait. Voters and reporters and historians should have the fullest possible portrait of both Trump and Joe Biden. So the NYT has performed a real public service.
Trump’s predictable smears
Mere minutes after the Times story was published, Trump began a pre-planned press conference by rambling about the Bidens and other subjects.
When reporters like CNN’s Jeremy Diamond asked about the tax reporting, Trump derided it as “fake news” and proceeded to lie about The Times. Then he reached for his friendly right-wing lifelines, the same way game show contestants try to phone-a-friend for help. It’s difficult to ascertain who asked what, but the softball players included John Gizzi of Newsmax, Christina Bobb of One America News, and a to-be-determined member of the foreign press.
After the press conference, CNN anchor Ana Cabrera pointed out that Trump resorted to right-wing questioners and said that he “could solve all this by releasing his tax returns, by making them public…”
Behind the scenes
The NYT says it won’t publish the actual tax return documents
Baquet’s letter doubled as a defense of The Times against inevitable Trumpworld attacks: “Some will raise questions about publishing the president’s personal tax information. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment allows the press to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters even when those in power fight to keep it hidden. That powerful principle of the First Amendment applies here.”
Expect Fox’s coverage to look like this
Oliver Darcy emails: “Anytime there is a big story in the news that Fox News has to cover on its supposed ‘straight news’ programs, the network does so by leading with Trump’s denial. Sunday evening was no different. The headline on Fox’s website focused solely on Trump’s denial and bashing of NYT. Elsewhere in right-wing media, some homed in on the line from NYT’s story that said the documents it obtained do not ‘reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.’ Expect these to be the angles the pro-Trump media takes in the next 24 hours…”
>> Meanwhile, the Drudge Report continues to zing Trump. The banner headline on Sunday evening read, “THE FAKE BILLIONAIRE?”