August 8, 2016

David Cay Johnston talks Trump’s taxes on AM Joy


As the upcoming presidential election continues to barrel down the news media highway like a souped-up Rolls with the breaks disabled, it remains a top story that Donald Trump continues to insist on being the first major-party candidate since Richard Nixon not to release his tax returns for public review.

The measure of ink, pixels, TV and radio airtime, and general cognitive bandwidth that’s been spent puzzling out the degree to which, and various ways in which, Trump’s candidacy breaks the mold is overwhelming. (Summary: it is a very unusual candidacy, in all sorts of ways.) The tax returns remain a particular source of confusion to many, largely because it is possible to get pretty far in life without knowing anything about the intricacies of tax law and its historic relationship with American public office — something Trump may be counting on.

What’s that you say? If only there were a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative tax journalist and law school professor with three decades’s experience following Donald Trump? Someone who could provide invaluable context and answer thorny questions about exactly what’s going on?

David Cay Johnston to the rescue. Appearing yesterday morning on MSNBC’s AM Joy to talk with host Joy Reid about the details of Trump’s stance on his taxes, Johnston was—oh, let’s just say it—a force of nature:

There are two fundamental things. One is that Congress has special rules for real estate professionals. And if you own enough buildings, you get to live tax-free. That’s one. So, we will find out whether Donald really has property that’s depreciable (buildings) worth nearly as much as he wants us to believe. And that may show, if he has a lot, that he’s paid no income taxes for the last thirty years. Secondly, we have very good evidence that Donald cheated on his taxes in 1984. His New York City and New York State income tax returns were audited because he reported a consulting business with no income but over $600,000 of deductions. And in the trial that was held in one of the two cases, his tax guy—his long-term tax guy—was shown the tax return, and he said, “Uh, that’s my signature, but I didn’t prepare that tax return.” That’s pretty good evidence of cheating.

The six-minute clip is utterly worth watching in its entirety. You can buy Johnston’s book, The Making of Donald Trump, on our site or from your local indie bookseller.