Ruling on Trump tax records could be costliest defeat of his losing streak
Photo: Alex Brandon / AP
Donald Trump promised his followers that they would win so much that they would get tired of winning. But the former US president is currently on a seemingly endless streak of bad luck.
He lost the presidential election, lost more than 60 legal challenges to the outcome, lost his bid to overthrow the electoral college, lost control of the Senate, and lost impeachment 43-57 despite being spared conviction for technical reasons. Trump lost again on Monday - with potentially far-reaching consequences.
Related: Supreme Court rejects Trump's offer to block tax records from prosecutors
The Supreme Court rejected an attempt by its attorneys to prevent Cyrus Vance, the New York District Attorney for Manhattan (DA), from enforcing a subpoena to obtain eight years of his personal and corporate tax records.
The verdict didn't mean the public could see Trump's tax returns, which have almost become mythical because he was the first president to soon keep them secret.
But it removed a major barrier from Vance's dogged investigation. The prosecutor has said little about why he wants Trump's files, but in a court case last year prosecutors said they were entitled to seek them because of "potentially extensive and protracted criminal behavior at the Trump Organization" in public - Trump's family business empire - it has been reported - includes banking, tax and insurance fraud.
Now this investigation is gaining momentum. Vance, who hired an attorney with extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases earlier this month, can use actual financial records, spreadsheets, and email correspondence between the Trump Organization and the accounting firm to determine if the public reports were accurate in Mazars USA.
If wrongdoing is found, Trump will one day be docked in a New York courtroom, even facing possible jail time. No wonder he fought so hard to hold onto the power and immunity from law enforcement that it bestowed.
The threat, however real or remote, casts a shadow over Trump's chances of a political comeback. On Sunday he will deliver his first speech since leaving office at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, to reassert command of the Republican Party and launch a new presidential campaign in 2024.
Lindsey Graham, possibly his most loyal supporter in the US Senate, told the Washington Post: "If he ran, it would be his nomination for having. I don't know what he wants to do. Because he was successful for conservatism and because people value his fighting spirit, he will dominate the party for years to come. The way I see it, we cannot achieve our goals without Trump. "
Bill Christeson holds up a sign saying "Follow the Money" in front of the Supreme Court as he issued an initial ruling last July on the publication of Donald Trump's tax returns.
The former president's response to the Supreme Court ruling on Monday describing Vance's investigation as part of "the greatest political witch hunt in our country's history" fit in with his political playbook. If he ran for the White House again in 2024, he would surely cite the investigation as evidence of a "deep state" conspiracy to fuel his complaint movement.
The court's decision also coincided with the opening of a Senate Judicial Committee's confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, nominated by Joe Biden as attorney general. It suits both Biden and Garland very well for the Manhattan prosecutors to take on the heavy lifting of prosecuting Trump so they aren't accused of politicizing law enforcement.
It also allows Biden to get past the situation in which he would not win if Trump were convicted of a federal offense. Some urged him to offer a pardon in the name of unity and healing, others warned that such weakness would be a terrible situation, for example.
Trump has been charged twice, including for inciting violence against the US government and leaving his own Vice President Mike Pence to the gentle graces of the mob.
Robert Mueller, the special adviser, presented 10 examples of Trump's behavior during his Russia investigation that could legally be interpreted as an obstruction to justice. Yet it is his long quest to hide his taxes that could prove his Achilles heel and derail his future political ambitions.
The New York Times reported last year that Trump had only paid $ 750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 and paid no income tax for 10 of the last 15 years.
Matthew Dowd, a political strategist, told the MSNBC network, “I find it fascinating that taxes can finally be the way that DT is blamed for all the things he's done in his life. I find it fascinating because, despite all the bad things he did, Al Capone was eventually held accountable and ended up on the rock [Alcatraz Island] in California for tax evasion. "
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