Oops. Donald Trump has another nettlesome whistleblower on his hands that he’s going to have to try and drown out. The latest revelation: a career Internal Revenue Service official has filed a complaint alleging that a Treasury Department official sought to tamper with the annual audit of Donald Trump or Mike Pence’s tax returns. Which official do you think is more likely to have sought to intervene?
According to the Washington Post, which broke the story, the whistleblower’s account focuses on ‘the integrity of the government’s system for auditing the president and vice president’s tax returns.’ Needless to say, the process is supposed to be inviolate. Trump himself has constantly invoked the sanctity of tax returns, protesting that since he is under audit, he cannot release nary a page, in contrast to his predecessors. Once the audit is completed, he avers, they’ll be open for inspection in the blink of an eye. Or not.
It will be more difficult for Trump to depict the IRS whistleblower as guilty of treason since he or she isn’t focusing on a foreign policy issue, but a domestic one. The issue of his taxes could also prove even more potent than Ukrainegate since it relates directly to an issue that every taxpayer understands intimately. The tax returns of the president and vice president are supposed to be like Caesar’s wife—beyond suspicion. IRS regulations dictate that they be kept in an orange folder in a separate filing cabinet. If Trump, who’s been braying about the corruption of Joe Biden, has been meddling with the audit of his taxes, then the ensuing uproar would cause serious additional damage to his presidency. Congressional Democrats would have further cause to accuse him, to borrow from his linguistic repertoire, of being a stone cold crook.
The tax issue, however, is unlikely to divert attention from Trump’s Ukraine travails. Quite the contrary. It may heighten scrutiny of his dealings as a miasma of corruption wafts around the White House. Today, former Ukraine emissary Kurt Volker testified before the House Intelligence Committee. What he had to say did not exactly redound to the benefit of Trump. Volker seems to have warned Rudy Giuliani that he should avoid entangling himself in Ukrainian internal affairs so as to blacken the name of Biden per et fils. Volker, who is a sophisticated diplomat, clearly smelled trouble. Republican members of the committee are claiming that he provided nothing of significance. But Volker did hand over text messages that indicate that Giuliani’s wild goose chase was raising eyebrows among a variety of diplomats. Bill Taylor, the lead American diplomat to Ukraine, for example, told his colleagues: ‘I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.’
Well, yes. But that doesn’t appear to be stopping an increasingly erratic Trump who announced at the White House this morning that he was contemplating asking China, a well-known bastion of judicial impartiality, to investigate his favorite hobbyhorse, the Bidens. Biden himself must be somewhat thunderstruck by the amount of attention that Trump is devoting to him, a primary candidate for the nomination who isn’t a lock for it. Meanwhile, Trump isn’t backing down. He just tweeted, ‘DRAIN THE SWAMP!’ If only.