Five years ago, in the months leading up to the reelection of Barack Obama, Donald Trump had some harsh criticisms for the president regarding a perceived lack of transparency. “A lot of undecided and independent voters have had enough with Obama’s lack of transparency. I don’t blame them,” he wrote on Twitter. He called on Obama to release the 9/11 “tape of Tyrone Woods pleading for military support in Benghazi” in addition to his college applications and transcripts. Mind you, this was all on top of the birther claims that Trump had made, calling on Obama to release his birth certificate to verify his citizenship. As such, one would have assumed that if Trump were ever going to run for president, he would do so with a focus on transparency to the electorate. Well, that was (and is, now that Trump is actually president) hardly the case, and the White House is certainly catching a fair amount of criticism for it.
There are two main issues at play here: Trump’s tax returns and the White House visitor logs. Along the campaign trail, Trump broke precedent from years of presidential elections by becoming the first candidate in four decades to not release his tax returns for public view. Despite petitions signed by millions of Americans calling for those crucial documents to be released, Trump claimed that he was under audit by the IRS and thus could not release them yet. Once the audit had elapsed, however, Trump still refused to release them. Once he was in the White House, he attempted to put the issue to rest by claiming that voters no longer cared about the tax return issue and that his election was evidence that the American electorate was not concerned with the matter.
Unfortunately for Trump, but perhaps fortunately for the future of American democracy, voters and pundits DO still care about the issue. Just last month, Rachel Maddow tweeted that she had obtained copies of the president’s tax returns and that she would be disclosing them on her show later that night. This message was enough to push the White House to disclose Trump’s income and tax rate before Maddow could do so herself. This weekend brought the most substantial evidence that people are still worried about the president’s potential tax evasion, misleading philanthropy claims, and ties to foreign industry, as millions of protesters gathered in over 100 cites across the country to call on Trump to release his tax returns and join the presidents and presidential campaigns of the past 40 years.
Rather than respond in a respectful, dare I say ‘presidential’ way, however, Trump took to Twitter to express his frustration with an incredible expression of Americans’ First Amendment Rights to free speech. “I did what was an almost impossible thing to do for a Republican – easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?” wrote Trump after his motorcade took a very specific route in Palm Beach so as to avoid hundreds of protesters. “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” Clearly, anyone holding their breath in suspense of Trump finally deciding that Americans’ concerns over his tax returns warrant him releasing them can exhale. Despite these frequent and vocal calls for such a simple act, it appears that the Trump administration must have something to hide, as they are dead-set upon keeping these documents concealed.
This notion of the need for secrecy is only furthered by the administration’s decision to keep private the list of visitors who come onto White House grounds. According to The Washington Post, “[Trump] will not follow former president Barack Obama's policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security.” Government watchdog leaders suggest that the only real reason to do such a thing would be to hide meetings with lobbyists or influencers that should not really be there in the first place. Given Trump’s ties to foreign executives and officials as well as power players in the energy and manufacturing spheres in the U.S., this is incredibly disconcerting and reveals a culture of secrecy and subversive behavior within the White House.
Do you think these two issues are problematic?