Does Donald Trump owe billions of dollars to Vladimir Putin-connected Russian oligarchs? Is his personal fortune so tied to loans from corporate fat cats that they're secretly pulling the strings on all of his policy decisions?
Trump swears the answer to both of those questions is no, but he also won't let anyone see his tax returns, which would definitively prove whether the leader of the free world is up to his neck in debt with bad hombres. Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives had a chance to force Trump to release those tax forms, but House Republicans voted unanimously to block the measure.
Miami's three GOP House members — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo, and Mario Diaz-Balart — all voted in lockstep with their party to let Trump keep his taxes a secret.
Why? Your guess is as good as ours. Their offices haven't returned messages from New Times asking for an explanation. Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen in particular have some 'splainin' to do.
Both represent districts that went heavily for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, and both have positioned themselves as Trump critics. (However, their walk hasn't really matched their talk so far: Curbelo has backed nearly 85 percent of Trump's nominees and plans; Ros-Lehtinen has green-lit 70 percent.)
During his campaign, Curbelo even told voters that Trump should release his taxes.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo thinks Trump should release tax returns, as candidates have done in "recent history." He's from FL swing district.— Ben Siegel (@benyc) May 13, 2016
This is a good place to mention that every single presidential candidate since 1973 has released his or her taxes in full. It's not an extraordinary request. In fact, it's an extremely basic bit of transparency that lets voters judge for themselves if a candidate has any troubling financial conflicts of interest.
Trump has spent his first month in office foaming at the mouth over the increasingly ominous connections between his campaign and Russia, which hacked the DNC and has all but admitted to trying to throw the election his way. Releasing his taxes would be a simple way to quell suspicions about his financial ties to Moscow — yet he won't do so.
That's why Democrats tried to force his hand last night. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey, used a parliamentary procedure to force a vote on a resolution regarding Trump's taxes.
The bill failed 229-185, along strict party lines. (South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz backed the measure; Rep. Frederica Wilson, for whatever reason, didn't vote.)
Republicans didn't offer much context to the vote last night, but Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady gave a truly bizarre reason for his refusal to take up such a motion on the committee level.
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” he told reporters.
Yes, looking into whether the president has been financially kneecapped by Soviet mobsters would surely lead down a slippery slope where Congress would demand to see every American's tax returns just for chuckles!
Let's hope Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen, and Diaz-Balart have better logic behind their votes. If we ever hear what it is, we'll let you know.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.