About that little tax fraud thing

The Kavanaugh mess distracted a lot of us from the Times’s big story on the Trump empire’s vast tax fraud. Paul Waldman at the Post reminded us to be reminded of it.

It has been less than two days since we learned that Donald Trump and his family appear to have engaged in a years-long conspiracy to commit tax fraud on an absolutely gigantic scale, evading hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes they owed to the federal government. We learned this from a mother lode of documents obtained by the New York Times — including tax returns, business records and bank records.

And nearly everyone seems to have already forgotten.

I didn’t forget but I did put it aside for later. It is a very long story. Sarah Sanders said it’s 14,000 words.

If you haven’t read the (incredibly long) article, the quick summary is that, in the later years of his life, Fred Trump — the president’s father — with the help of his children, constructed an intricate web of vehicles to escape income taxes, gift taxes and estate taxes, passing more than $1 billion worth of assets to his children while avoiding the taxes that should have been paid on them. While wealthy people often take advantage of the tax code’s numerous loopholes to avoid taxes, what the Trump family did was, as the Times described it, “outright fraud,” including hiding transactions with shell companies, undervaluing properties, creating invoices with fake charges, and what amounted to hundreds of subsidiary schemes and scams.

Loopholes are legal; that other stuff not so much. These are crimes. Trump appears to have committed many crimes.

He will likely never be prosecuted for them because the statute of limitations has expired (though both New York state and the federal government can mount a civil case against him, which could force him to pay the taxes he evaded, plus fines). But the Times article contains documentary evidence — shell companies owned by Trump, his signature on documents — showing that he was an active participant in the scheme.

The paper obtained Fred Trump’s tax returns, but not Donald’s, so it’s entirely possible that, for instance, after Fred evaded gift taxes when he was showering Donald with cash, Donald also didn’t pay the income taxes he should have owed on the same money.

The only way to find out if that happened is to examine Trump’s tax returns. Which he has steadfastly refused to release.

It’s clearer than ever why he refused to release them.

To repeat, because we have to keep repeating this, we now have hard evidence — not allegations, not hearsay, not suspicion, but hard evidence — that Donald Trump and his family committed tax fraud on a massive scale. What should be done about it now? It has to be followed up by every news organization with the means to do so. It has to be investigated by Congress (though, of course, that won’t happen unless Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress). We have to get the president’s tax returns. And we have to never stop asking questions until all the facts are known, and Trump, one way or another, is held to account. No matter what else is competing for our attention.

Let’s hope we can do all that before he seizes absolute power.

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