The New York Times’ detailing of two decades of President Donald Trump’s federal tax returns Sunday didn’t just expose how little Trump has paid in taxes. It also further exposed Trump’s personal stakes in November’s election, making it even clearer that the president sees a second term as a way to avoid potential prosecution and the burden of the mountainous debts he has amassed.
Trump’s tax returns and his refusal to release them have been the subject of political scrutiny since he decided to run for president in 2015. But they have caused him legal and financial problems for even longer: For the last decade, he has faced an Internal Revenue Service audit over a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed in 2010.
The Times report raises questions about whether Trump violated federal law in evading taxes and offers a lens into why Trump has fought so hard to shield the returns from public view, legal and ethics experts said.
“Donald Trump’s financial records are the Rosetta Stone for understanding the depth of his corruption and crimes,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, said in a Monday interview with Yahoo News. “The more it is unraveled, the more he will unravel. It’s the reason he’s fought so hard to keep it under wraps.”
The Times report also raised the possibility that the IRS audit has been “paused” because Trump is president, suggesting that this case may not be resolved until his time in office concludes.
The IRS did not respond to requests for comment Monday about whether the audit had been temporarily halted. And there is no evidence that the president himself played any role in slowing it down if it indeed was put on pause. (Trump’s own appointee to head the IRS has disputed the assertion that he cannot release tax records because of the audit.)
That it may have been paused, however, points to one of the clearest trends of the Trump presidency: his efforts to use his presidency to avoid legal...