Yes, you heard correctly: Some of Donald Trump's tax returns have been leaked. His 1040 form from 2005, to be specific. But since that's just a two-page form with some income numbers and deductions on it, there are a lot of questions that Trump's 2005 tax return leaves unanswered. And these aren't just minor things, like about why he decided to funnel $3 to the presidential election campaign fund (seriously, the form show that). These are big, serious questions that the American public has a right to know about the nation's president, and this tax return doesn't even take a step toward answering them.
Rachel Maddow, who released the tax documents on her show on MSNBC, focused her show more around those questions than around the tax returns themselves. And really, knowing about the nature of his financial ties, for example, would be far more important than knowing that thanks to the alternative minimum tax, Trump paid 25 percent of his income in taxes in 2005. When it comes to Trump's tax returns, yes, any information is good information. However, don't get complacent with just this tiny little leak. There's a lot that either Trump needs to release or the media needs to uncover, and here are just a few of those burning questions.
1Is Trump as rich as he claims?
You've seen the golden elevator and the shimmering penthouse, but Trump has made some claims about his wealth that even the gaudiness of his living situation can't back up. Trump claimed on the campaign trail that he's worth over $10 billion, but Forbes claims that the number is more likely to be around $3.7 billion. Just to be clear, it's not the details of Trump's net worth that are concerning. What's concerning — as usual, with this president — is the likelihood that he's lied about something, and the fact that more pages from his tax returns could prove that.
2Is Trump as charitable as he claims?
The Washington Post broke a big story back in October about Trump's claims of charitable giving — and how they are largely false. His tax returns could prove the donations he claims to have made, but instead of releasing them, he's hiding them.
Again, it would be nice to have an exceptionally rich president who was dedicated to giving his fortune away to those who need it more, but that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that as of right now, it seems as though the country has a president who lies about his charitable giving in order to look good. It's not unreasonable to want to see the truth of the matter.
3What are the sources of Trump's income?
Yes, everyone knows that Trump is a real estate mogul who originally got rich because his father gave him a million-dollar loan. But where does his fabulous wealth come from now? The latest tax returns show an income of $150 million in 2005, but they show nothing about where specifically that money is coming from.
4Does Trump have any foreign sources of income?
Trump has properties with his name on them all over the globe, but collecting income from foreign properties could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Without Trump's full tax returns, though, it can't be fully proven whether or not any of his income is from questionable foreign sources. If he was absolutely clean in this regard, don't you think he'd want his tax returns to prove it?
5Where does Trump have money invested?
It's reasonable to expect that a substantial portion of Trump's income comes from his investments, and that those investments might influence some of his decision-making.
There are laws against that, of course, and at least one of his cabinet picks ran into trouble because it came out that he had introduced a bill that would have benefited his investments. Some of the information on Trump's stock portfolio is public, but there's a lot more to learn on, say, properties that his company has invested in abroad.
6What deductions does Trump claim?
As the leaked pages from his 1995 tax return showed that Trump claimed $916 million in losses, which could have let him off the hook for federal income tax for 18 years.
He claims a pretty big deduction on the 2005 form, but the 1040 form alone reveals nothing about where that comes from, and whether it could be from more losses. Would it not be embarrassing for a businessman like Trump if his tax returns showed millions of dollars in losses every year?
7Who is Trump beholden to?
This is the question that all of the other questions are circling around. As Rachel Maddow explained in the first segment of her show on the tax returns, reporting on various business deals that Trump has made in the past have raised a lot of questions about who he is connected to, both at home and abroad. Trump himself insists that all of the negative stories are nonsense, but as the president, he has a responsibility to the American people to prove that he's not conducting a corrupt government and that he hasn't been connected to criminal figures in the past.
All other presidential candidates typically release years of their tax returns — but Trump broke that pattern with a lie about how he couldn't release the returns because they were under audit. It's natural that, because he lied, outside observers would then assume that he's hiding something — an assumption that he has not succeeded in dispelling. That's why the leak of these tax documents of Trump's should only be the beginning, and the media can't let itself be satisfied with the information that they reveal. There are too many questions of too much importance for this to be enough.