CLINTON: “So you gotta ask yourself — why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he is not as rich as he says he has. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about six hundred and fifty million dollars to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he does not want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he has paid nothing in federal taxes because the only years that anybody has ever seen for a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license. And they showed he did not pay any federal income tax.
TRUMP: “That makes me smart.”
Later in that same debate, in response to Trump bashing the government for doing little to bolster the country’s infrastructure, Clinton said this: “And maybe because you have not paid any federal income tax for a lot of years.” To which Trump replied: “It would be squandered too, believe me.”
Which sure seems like an admission that he hasn’t paid a whole lot of taxes, right?
So, if Trump did indeed pay no taxes for almost 20 years, you could see why that’s the sort of thing he wouldn’t want to be made public before he runs for a second term. Because what might have been smart for Donald Trump, the private citizen, looks a lot worse for Donald Trump, the president. Especially since Trump has routinely railed against companies taking advantage of the tax code to avoiding paying any taxes at all.
There are, of course, other possible explanations here. Trump isn’t nearly as rich as he says he is. He didn’t give any money to charity. But the one that jibes most with what Trump has said publicly — and privately, according to Nunberg — is that he worked every possible loophole to pay as little in taxes as he could.
Hypocrisy would be nothing new for Trump. But gaming the swamp to feather your own nest? That runs directly counter to Trump’s image among his base as the one honest man in all of Washington.