Terry H. Schwadron
July 10, 2020
Set aside the legal analysis and the political churn over the U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning Donald Trump’s refusal to turn over tax returns and financial documents to various authorities, and what you have here is an Aesopian moral.
The greedy fox can’t keep his grapes, or thereabout.
Yes, the twin decisions leave practical openings for Trump to set up yet more legal and procedural obstacles, but a basic, very important decision has been made: Trump is a Mortal, not a self-delusional God, and, as Aesop would lead us to believe, must eventually, if not now, pay for any crimes.
The judges were unanimous on the main point here: No president is above the law, however squirrely their decisions about timing for Donald Trump, his bankers, his auditors, his accountants to belly up to the New York state authorities with the actual tax documents. If your goal in these cases was to see Trump frog-marched to jail, you have a long wait, if ever, to see that happen.
Practically speaking, Trump may have walked away a winner by a timing reprieve. The complications that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. created in the two decisions mean that we won’t see any information about Trump finances before the elections.
But make no mistake: The Court rejected outright Trump’s argument that the president has an absolute immunity from criminal investigation.
Any required lower court review of considerations of scope and purpose as seen through Constitutional eyes — and appeals — will take time. And any vision of House Democrats taking action on reports of what is in those tax returns, the subject of the twinned decision, sounds like a practical non-starter while Trump is president, unfortunately stepping on even a skeptic’s view of Congressional oversight.
But try to set that aside. We have agreement even among Trump’s own appointees that he is not beyond the law, that he cannot shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in daylight and walk away unscathed.
Lesson in Humility
As it happens, this lesson just might be enforced Humility for Trump. Of course, as with all other incoming information, Trump immediately rejected the results as anti-Trump politics in a week in which Trump has reflected his inhumanity to near-maximum levels.
Just this week, Trump and his legions, including Fox’s Tucker Carlson, have picked on actual living American heroes like Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the Army National Security Council staffer who quit the military over being hounded for telling the truth, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, who lost both legs in military service — just as he has attacked former Sen. John McCain and a heroic captain of Humayun Khan, a Muslim whose parents spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Trump has lashed out at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the virologist, and his own Centers for Disease Control for questioning his authoritative voice in declaring a pandemic raging out of control as dying down.
Trump has dismissed concerns about institutional racism in these United States in aiming yet more law enforcement guns at minority group protestors raising important and lasting questions about the values this country professes.
“Throughout his presidency and especially the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump has avoided blame — to use a phrase — like the plague,” wrote Aaron Blake in The Washington Post about coronavirus and schools. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said bluntly when asked about the slow ramp-up in testing.
This is someone who never learned to be humble, as the new book by his niece, Mary Trump, underscores.
No Blame for Trump
Escaping Blame is a quality no leader should want, yet Trump constantly needs someone to accept blame for his own action. This time it is the Supreme Court.
The principle is true in these tax cases: No one forced him to keep them hidden, yet he needs to find someone to blame, like the news media, who never filled out, filed, or hid his tax returns. Thus, Trump tweets immediately following the news insisted that the justices were unfairly limiting his powers and decisions when they — in Trump’s mind — have never questioned any other president — except, of course, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton as starters,
Rather, Trump himself has repeatedly chosen secrecy, prompting much speculation, deserved or not, for how he accounts for his wealth, whether he personally or his company is beholden to foreign interests, particularly in Russia, about whether he illegally evades taxes, makes charitable contributions or is legally truthful in how he accounts for payments to sex partners and handles campaign contributions.
Michael Cohen and others have been explicit with federal and state prosecutors over illegal financial moves by Trump and his corporations. That’s why prosecutors are all over his taxes.
Likewise, House Democrats prosecuting his impeachment trial were so interested in the role that his personal fortunes are entwined with foreign interests, as possible explanation for Trump’s sometimes outlandish pro-Russia stances.
In the end, the fox got what he was due, and even a child hearing the story understands the moral.