Donald Trump appears to have made a cynical calculation that he will not pay a high political price for being the most secretive president since Richard Nixon. In fact, the administration has gone to great lengths to conceal pertinent information from the American people.
After dodging questions on the subject for weeks, the administration waited until the afternoon of Good Friday to dump the news that it will not follow former president Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security. Trump seems to feel that the results in November validated this obfuscation, and that takeaway has emboldened him to continue the same approach as much as possible.
Trump’s evolving excuses for withholding his tax returns encapsulate why he is a man who cannot be taken at his word:
- In 2011, the businessman told ABC News he’d release his tax returns as soon as Obama released his birth certificate. Obama did. Trump reneged.
- In 2012, criticizing Mitt Romney for not releasing his returns, Trump said onFox News that it would be “a positive” and “a great thing” if he put his returns out because it would show “you’ve been successful, and that you’ve made a lot of money.” The former Massachusetts governor eventually relented under pressure.
- In 2014, Trump was unequivocal. “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely,” he told an Irish TV station. “And I would love to do that.”
- “At some point I’ll release it,” he said in a 2015 radio interview.
- In early 2016, Trump said he was “working on” putting the returns together and planned to share them soon. Then, after he started winning primaries, he changed his tune. He said he couldn’t put them out because he was being audited by the IRS. But he promised repeatedly, including during an October debate with Clinton, that he’d share his returns just “as soon as the audit is finished.”
— If he hasn’t already, Trump will file this year’s taxes very soon. The audit excuse does not apply. It is literally impossible for this year’s return to already be under scrutiny by the IRS. There are also previous years that are not under audit.
— Now, however, the president acts as if the mere fact he won an election absolves him of every past promise.
It’s not just the taxes and visitor logs, though. There are numerous examples of Trump and his team withholding pertinent information from the public since January:
— Foxes in the hen house: Secret waivers allow lobbyists to advance their former clients’ interests from high perches inside the government without anyone on the outside ever knowing.
The White House appears to be gagging agencies and instructing professional career staffers to not respond to inquiries from Democratic lawmakers.
The administration tried to block Sally Yates from testifying before Congress by asserting executive privilege. Yates, who was fired in January by Trump for ordering DOJ lawyers not to defend his first immigration ban, played a key part in the investigation surrounding Flynn.
Trump has taken steps to scale back transparency requirements for companies, as well. Last month, the president signed a bill that killed an Obama-era worker safety rule that required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose serious safety and other labor law violations. In February, he repealed a regulation that required energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. Trump signed that measure on Valentine’s Day.
(Excerpted from Washington Post 4/17/17)