Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Republicans across the land, including many GOP candidates for public office, have swallowed hook, line and sinker Donald Trump's unfounded claims that the election was rigged, filled with massive fraud, and that election laws must be tightened to prevent such acts from happening in the future.
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They believe it even though that fraud didn't happen in the 2020 election, even according to Trump's own top election security chief, and according to a raft of judges, many of whom Trump appointed.
But they are still pushing restrictive state laws and numerous GOP candidates are spouting Trump's lies as they seek to further their own political careers. It's appalling, especially because they probably know better. But it's simply the old political ploy of taking advantage of whatever is turning on voters at the moment. And rightwing voters still believe Trump, and will, no matter what.
What about Trump's latest troubles with the law -- the indictments against his company and chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, for tax fraud? Well, you say, it's only technicalities. Nothing serious. Who doesn't fudge their taxes, anyway? The left-wing crazies are just out to get him.
Last week in the New York Supreme Court, prosecutors charged the company had paid Weisselberg, "off the books" for 15 years, providing cars, an apartment, tuition payments and cash on which federal taxes were not paid. In sum, almost $1 million in taxes went unpaid.
Tax Expert or Tax Dumbo?
Well, as this piece in The Washington Post points out, there's a vast difference between Trump's previous claims to be "King of the Tax Code" and his latest contention that he had no idea what was done was wrong. Seemingly admitting to the charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), Trump simply claimed ignorance.
“They go after good, hard-working people for not paying taxes on a company car,” Trump said Saturday night at a rally in Sarasota, FL. “You didn’t pay tax on the car or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. You didn’t pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don’t even know. Do you have to? Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?”
Certainly, that argument, couched in the language of Six-Pack Joe, will resonate with many Trump supporters who hate the IRS, hate the government, hate paying taxes, and envy, and identify with, those who are able to find loopholes to avoid paying their fair share. And, they're the same people who swallow his election lies.
But was that comment just the talk of a regular Joe who's befuddled at the tax code and shocked at being entrapped in technicalities? Or was Trump laying the basis for a possible defense claiming that he simply didn't know? After all, as The Post's article points out, knowledge of the tax law is vital to proving fraud.
Trump's Claims of Tax Expertise
If so, however, how does that jive with Trump's repeated claims over the years that he knows more about the federal tax code than practically anyone on the planet? Here is a sampling of his statements, outlined by The Post, attesting to his vast knowledge of the tax code:
“By the way, just so you know, I know more formulas, I know more about tax abatements, I know more about taxes than any human being that God ever created.” -- March 2016.
“I know every form of tax — believe me — from the [value-added taxes] to the fair tax to — every single form of tax.” -- August 2015.
“Look, nobody knows the tax code better than I do. Okay? I know it better. I’m the king of the tax code.” -- August 2015.
“I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.” -- May 2016.
“Nobody knows more about taxes than I do — and income than I do.” -- May 2016.
“I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone, which is why I’m the one who can truly fix them.” -- October 2016.
So, either Trump is a tax dumbo who doesn't realize that you have to pay taxes on fringe benefits like cars or apartments provided by the firm, and that a company can't dodge paying employment taxes on those benefits provided to employees, or he and his company deliberately cheated to avoid paying taxes required by law.
Here's what Daniel Goldman, former lead counsel for the House impeachment inquiry said on Twitter:
But there is another big problem with that ploy by Trump, if that's what it is. According to allegations in the indictment, the Trump Organization kept internal spreadsheets tracking the hidden payments so they could avoid paying Weisselberg too much.
Prosecutors said those spreadsheets amounted to a confession, showing the size of the fraud and estimating that Weisselberg alone had avoided paying more than $900,000 in taxes. Hiding that info in those spreadsheets shows the Trump Organization knew it violated the law, they contended.
“If you pay your employees under the table, a good rule of thumb is not to write it down,” Daniel Hemel, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said in The Washington Post. “It’s a big amount of money. It’s blatant violation of the law. And it’s well-documented.”
Still, my bet is that Six Pack Joe and the honchos in the GOP will be suckered into believing Trump as usual. The real question, though, is who will the courts believe?