By Colleen O'Connor
Two shocking events helped topple Richard Nixon from the presidency more than 40 years ago.
The discovery of White House tapes captured both Nixon’s private vulgarity and his criminal conduct in the Watergate scandal. And the release of his income tax returns also raised eyebrows.
On a 1970 presidential salary of $200,000, Nixon paid only $792 in federal income tax. In 1971, he paid only $878, according to the Wall Street Journal. An IRS audit found Nixon owed nearly $500,000 in unpaid taxes and interest.
President Trump faces similar problems. There are tapes, and more tapes. And there are taxes, and more taxes.
And odds are that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has them all.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The now famous, alleged “pee tape” was supposedly recorded by the Russians on one of Trump’s visits to Moscow. First referenced in the Steele dossier, and published by BuzzFeed, it has yet to be confirmed, though it remains a staple of late night comedians.
As recently as last week, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley said he thinks “something close to the Trump pee tape exists.”
This comes amid increasing fears that the Russians may have some “kompromat” on the President which better explains his Putin-friendly Helsinki performance.
Then there was Trump’s dinner with James Comey in which the President allegedly demanded the FBI director pledge his loyalty when overseeing the probe into the Russian election meddling. Comey told friends he perceived Trump’s request as a threat.
Trump denied the exchange and tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Comey’s reply: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
When pressed for the release of those tapes, Trump then denied their existence. But the Washington Post contends they do, in fact, exist, albeit in digital form.
And now, newer tapes. Just Friday, the New York Times reported: “President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.”
Trump has steadfastly denied the affair or any involvement in the hush money payments, but the alleged tape was released and broadcast on CNN Tuesday night. It sure sounds like Trump.
And Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the woman who also claims an affair with the President, says that still more tapes exist.
Then there are the taxes. Despite a refusal to release his tax returns, candidate Trump boasted, “I pay as little as possible. That’s the American way. I mean, do you want stupid people?”
These returns are surely already in the hands of the special prosecutor, as are the financial transactions of the Trump organization.
And now, New York state is aiming to secure Trump’s tax returns via another avenue. State Atty. Gen. Barbara D. Underwood has sued the Trump Foundation and its directors, Donald J. Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump “for extensive and persistent violations of state and federal law.”
The allegations are that the Trump Charitable Foundation “raised in excess of $2.8 million in a manner designed to influence the 2016 presidential election at the direction and under the control of senior leadership of the Trump presidential campaign.” That is clearly illegal, if proven.
In addition, “the foundation also allegedly benefitted Trump or his businesses at least five times, including a “$100K payment to settle legal claims against Mr. Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort, $158K to settle legal claims against Trump National Golf Club, and $10K to purchase a painting of Mr. Trump displayed at the Trump National Doral,” Underwood tweeted. Also illegal, if proven.
Then comes the hammer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated his willingness to refer the matter to prosecutors, who could pursue criminal charges and seek the release of Trump’s tax returns.”
Small wonder meeting Putin in Helsinki seemed preferable to staying home.
Tapes and taxes. What fun. Lordy, I hope they all appear.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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