DAVID STEWART: Republicans vote to hide Trump tax returns

TO THE EDITOR:

There was a vote in the U.S. House ways and means committee and then a resolution for a floor vote, that could have finally forced disclosure of President Trump’s taxes. Cowardly Republicans voted to block the action, including our Rep. Jack Bergman.

Bergman and his Republican allies are now accomplices in whatever Trump is hiding. If we are a democracy, citizens deserve to see several years of Trump’s taxes, which could reveal financial ties to the corrupt Russian government or could help clear him of those suspicions.

A president’s tax return is not normally hidden from voters. Every president since Richard Nixon forward has released their returns. Since we know that Russia interfered with our recent election, seeing the current president’s taxes is more important than ever before. I can just imagine the uproar and righteous indignation if a Democrat failed this minimum standard of transparency.

In a 2014 interview Trump stated, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely”. On multiple occasions during his campaign, candidate Trump stated that he would release his returns when an audit was completed. This was nothing more than a flimsy excuse since an audit does not prevent him from releasing his returns. His spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, recently stated that he would not be releasing his returns, making a lie of the president’s previous statement.

Republicans have talked a lot about the lack of trust in government. Now they vote to conceal what has been a routinely available and revealing source of information about the president of the United States. Seventy-three percent of voters want to see his taxes, including 53 percent of Republicans. It is simply a lie for Trump to state that “no one is interested” in his taxes.

Michigan ranks dead last, 50th, in government transparency and ethics, partly because the legislature and governor have exempted themselves from the Freedom of Information Act. The Michigan House recently passed legislation to correct this, but the Republican state Senate leader, Sen. Arlan Meekhof, opposes the bill. By blocking this bill he will continue to conceal his and the governors communications from the public.

“Sunshine Week”, an effort to encourage open government, has just concluded, but you can still call your representatives and demand open government at both the state and federal levels. Citizens in a free country deserve nothing less; we pay for this government. The concealment of Trump’s taxes, in light of his many known Russian ties, and the current FBI investigation, is particularly worrisome.

David Stewart

Manistee

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