Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Big Reason The Tax Returns Matter

Blake Hounshell, editor in chief of Politico Magazine recognizes  that Russia interfered in the USA's 2016 presidential election as directed by Vladimir Putin, who wanted Donald Trump to be elected. He acknowldges that Special Counsel Robert Muelller hasn't spoken yet about the hacked emails of the DNC and of Clinton campaign chairperson John Podesta.  He admits even that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has denied only that there is no collusion between the Trump campaign alleged in the indictment announced last week, and that the President's comments about all this are inaccurate and intenitionally misleading.

Still, he believes

So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret.

And he argues

If Trump had cooked up a scheme to provide some favor to Putin in exchange for his election, wouldn’t he be tempted to boast about it to someone?.. I’m still waiting for a smoking gun—and the special counsel hasn’t shown us one yet, assuming he ever will.

This assumes that the most damning evidence about Donald Trump- were it to exist- would be his knowing involvement in a conspiracy with foreign actors to defeat Hillary Clinton.  It appears Jonathan Chait would beg to differ:

.... imagining Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed Obama used as a primitive revenge ritual, and Russians taping the episode, is perfectly consistent with what we know about both parties. That exact scenario may not have happened. Indeed, sex is not the only kind of secret Trump harbors. He endured months of criticism first from Republican candidates, then Democrats, and all along from the media, for refusing to disclose his tax returns. Trump clearly feels protective of his financial information. Some of that information is in the hands of his business partners, many of whom are associated with Russia or are unsavory in some other way. All in all, the odds are disconcertingly high that Russia, or somebody, has blackmail leverage over the president of the United States.

It would be unwise to assume, as Hounshell seems to do, that the worst behavior the Special Counsel will unearth in his investigation is collusion, or conspiracy, with Russia.  Two maxims are at play. One is "when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me," as dramatized by Felix Unger/Tony Randall. Even more important is "follow the money."

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