TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Johnston: How To Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public

Trump Tax ReturnsNew York Times op-ed:  How to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public, by David Cay Johnston:

On June 14, the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil complaint against President Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of “persistently illegal conduct” in using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality."

Ms. Underwood believes there is abundant evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump as well. She made that position very clear in the letters she sent to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission in Washington recommending “further investigation and legal action." ...

A state or county criminal investigation that begins with abuse of the Donald J. Trump Foundation need not be limited to violations of charity and election law. It can also examine his personal and business tax filings and, in the process, lawfully put his tax returns in the public record.

Mr. Trump reportedly used hundreds of thousands of foundation dollars to settle legal cases and buy portraits of himself that hang at Trump properties, among other egregious examples of self-dealing. Those foundation expenditures were income, and unless Mr. Trump reported that income, he could be prosecuted for criminal tax fraud. ...

I believe that we, as citizens, own our government and that we should act like owners. The owners of New York State’s government should remind the governor, the Manhattan district attorney, the State Police and state tax authorities that they have a duty to initiate a thorough criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s state and city tax returns and, if appropriate, to prosecute.

Mr. Trump asserts that he is no crook despite abundant indications to the contrary. Let’s find out the truth.

Tax | Permalink


If the IRS is failing to enforce tax law, shouldn't she sue the IRS? If the FEC is failing to enforce election law, shouldn't she sue the FEC? If any state or local official can deputize herself to enforce federal law, the consequences will be... interesting.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jul 5, 2018 10:17:49 AM

So ridiculous. Trump Derangement Syndrome is no joke.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 5, 2018 10:32:03 AM

At we also have an Action Box giving people contact information for the governor of New York and others who have the power to make this happen.

Posted by: David Cay Johnston | Jul 5, 2018 10:46:57 AM

You really hate this guy, don't you?

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jul 6, 2018 9:52:19 AM

No, Dale Spradling, I don't hate Donald.

I don’t hate anyone I cover, including a hitman, serial killers, people who lost their jobs, went to prison or were fired because of my work.

This and previous Spradling posts tell me you have no idea how journalism works. But animus has never animated me, only telling people important facts they would not know but for my work, something the record shows I have done reasonably well at for the last 52 years.

Maybe you can grasp professionalism from the words of Jigsaw John, the great LAPD homicide detective. Back then I was regarded as a pariah by many cops for revealing what we all know now, but no one did back then until I came along: how corrupt LAPD was.

Before 1980 the LAPD was routinely described as the most honest, effective and efficient police force the world had ever seen. I proved officers committed numerous crimes on the orders of Chief Gates, who had officers spy on lawful activities, assigned officers to sleep with women, had an undercover officer start the May Day 1981 riot, and posted undercover officers in Moscow and Havana, all while failing to solve many solvable crimes and making wild and alarming claims about a crime wave that I proved was imaginary.

Lots of people like you thought I hated Gates. Nope, it was my job to cover him and I covered him the same way I do or did Donald, the owners of Gross Telecasting, Barron Hilton, Jack Welch, etc.

I don’t hate United Way either, even though my exposes caused severe problems for the ones in LA, NYC and DC and resulted in the DC president going to prison. Indeed, the best evidence if the complete separation of personal from professional is this: United Way in LA fixed me up with my wonderful wife 38 years ago, which obviously hasn’t had any effect on doing my reporting on UW.

Jigsaw, unlike you, understood I was doing my job. And felt so strongly about that he was willing to risk ire from Gates.

In this case an incompetent cop, who had identified the real killer, framed an innocent kid because he couldn’t properly put the case together against the real killer. This is the infamous Tony Cooks case in LA where the sentencing judge, known as the most pro-prosecution jurist in the county, said “this court believes you are innocent Mr. Cooks but you are hereby sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.”

In recounting this to his fellow homicide detectives, his arm on my shoulder, Jigsaw spoke of professionalism, saying "I don’t care who the killer is, only that I get THE killer," Jigsaw said.

I have followed Donald closely because I determined when we met 38 years ago that he was culturally and legally significant -- turned out I was spot on right, too.

As with solving the murder of John Gould, this is not personal. It’s business.

Posted by: David Cay Johnston | Jul 12, 2018 6:24:02 AM

Oh well.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Jul 12, 2018 7:55:16 AM

DCJ was the first, if I recall correctly, to recognize the fact that Lois Lerner had planted that question at the Tax Conference

Yes, he has an ideological bias. Most of us do. But once he chooses to cover a story he does a more complete job than almost anyone.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jul 12, 2018 10:33:30 AM

AMTbuff, there's a rule that I found to be true -- if it appears that a liberal Democratic is doing something noble rather than a slight-of-hand to further his ideology, you haven't looked deeply enough. DCJ simply was joining in throwing Lois Lerner under the bus to protect higher ups in the Democratic Party, including possibly the President himself. He wanted her "punishment" to end questions and investigations about who authorized her illegal partisan actions, who knew about them, and who ordered destruction of IRS computer records.

Posted by: Woody | Jul 12, 2018 6:44:59 PM


Yet again you just make stuff up. Your assumption of foul motives tells us a great deal about your character flaws, but nothing about me.

My work has ended the careers of more Democrats than Republicans.

I’m a longtime registered Republican and before that was with Tom Golisano’s Independence Party until the Lenora Fulani communists invaded more than two decades ago. And I’ve voted for people across the spectrum. But while those are facts I openly share they are also irrelevant to the issue at hand.

I’m four square for verifiable facts and never cowering.

My ideology? I’ve lectured on this all over the world and written about it:

Foster integrity. Tell the truth as best you can. Always do your best. Respect the rights of others, especially those whose views you dislike. Give heed to what centuries of experience shows works. Embrace change but cautiously. Promote liberty so the human spirit can thrive. Hold power accountable.

I’m an optimist, but based on your posts I’m sure you will find a way to twist that into something awful because your words demonstrate that you lack respect for honorable conduct that does not conform to your view. Your posts have made clear again and again that you lack respect for people who don’t conform to your views so you manufacture attacks.

And you talk of bias? Please.

My Lerner post, which you dismiss as intellectually corrupt without a scintilla of factual basis, was in line with my philosophy and my conduct, just as were my pieces calling out Eric Holder for lying and Obama for not walking his talk on transparency, published just nine days after he took office (and which, subsequent events showed, was spot on accurate).

My clip files are rich with similar stories about elected officials and appointees regardless of party going back to Nixon and before that nonpartisan local officials going back to my first investigative reporting when I was in high school more than a half century ago.

Ditto my exposes of corrupt, dishonest and manipulative conduct in many areas of American life, often by explaining in plain English extremely sophisticated economic, legal and regulatory issues.

As with Jigsaw John’s murder suspects, I don’t get to pick who the work focuses on. As I posted earlier, this is the work, it is not emotional or personal animus.

Like Jigsaw I don’t care who the perpetrators are because I’m not a respecter of persons.

Unless you know, deeply, what that means I hope you study up on that important concept because it puts the lie to your gratuitously insulting post here, for which frankly you should be ashamed, very shamed.

What I care about is that I spend my time on significant matters not trivia, which often means long hours mastering extremely difficult issues, as the Pulitzer board noted in its citation.

Many of these issues are not routinely in the news because they require deep study just to spot them, much less explain in plain English.

The best investigations, I teach around the world, often come from facts right in front of us, as with Poe’s The Purloined Letter. But you have to be informed and use your wits or you won’t see what is hidden in plain sight. to recognize.

And I care that I get my facts right. Subsequent events again and again established independently that articles which shocked people at the time, with complaints that what I revealed could not possibly be right, were in fact spot on accurate in concept and detail.

My students will tell you I teach classic virtues, reject dogma of all types, believe that journalists should never be respecters of persons, promote learning at the level of theory and principle and that when new fact emerge you must recognize them and adjust yours views if necessary because that is what honesty requires. I also teach prudence in all matters, including family and personal finance. And I’m as open as possible, as this post and previous responses to your baseless insults show.

Your posts indicate that you project. You might want to look that one up, too. It’s a serious flaw, but if you work at it you can overcome it.

Posted by: David Cay Johnston | Jul 13, 2018 1:07:15 AM