Trump Unfairly Expected to Answer Questions

Going back to the debate, which really was the most fun thing that happened this week … now Trump is whining that Lester Holt “went after” him and asked him unfair questions.  In truth, Lester Holt was barely there and only occasionally got in a word edgewise.

But in reviewing the transcript, it struck me that Holt spent more time aiming questions at Trump simply because Trump wouldn’t provide simple answers. Hillary Clinton would answer questions. She spoke in complete sentences that got right to what she wanted to say. Trump would spew out word salad, and Holt kept having to ask the same question again. For example:

HOLT: Mr. Trump, we’re talking about the burden that Americans have to pay, yet you have not released your tax returns. And the reason nominees have released their returns for decades is so that voters will know if their potential president owes money to — who he owes it to and any business conflicts. Don’t Americans have a right to know if there are any conflicts of interest?

TRUMP: I don’t mind releasing — I’m under a routine audit. And it’ll be released. And — as soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released.

But you will learn more about Donald Trump by going down to the federal elections, where I filed a 104-page essentially financial statement of sorts, the forms that they have. It shows income — in fact, the income — I just looked today — the income is filed at $694 million for this past year, $694 million. If you would have told me I was going to make that 15 or 20 years ago, I would have been very surprised.

But that’s the kind of thinking that our country needs. When we have a country that’s doing so badly, that’s being ripped off by every single country in the world, it’s the kind of thinking that our country needs, because everybody — Lester, we have a trade deficit with all of the countries that we do business with, of almost $800 billion a year. You know what that is? That means, who’s negotiating these trade deals?

We have people that are political hacks negotiating our trade deals.

HOLT: The IRS says an audit…

TRUMP: Excuse me.

HOLT: … of your taxes — you’re perfectly free to release your taxes during an audit. And so the question, does the public’s right to know outweigh your personal…

TRUMP: Well, I told you, I will release them as soon as the audit. Look, I’ve been under audit almost for 15 years. I know a lot of wealthy people that have never been audited. I said, do you get audited? I get audited almost every year.

And in a way, I should be complaining. I’m not even complaining. I don’t mind it. It’s almost become a way of life. I get audited by the IRS. But other people don’t.

I will say this. We have a situation in this country that has to be taken care of. I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release.


I will release my tax returns. And that’s against — my lawyers, they say, “Don’t do it.” I will tell you this. No — in fact, watching shows, they’re reading the papers. Almost every lawyer says, you don’t release your returns until the audit’s complete. When the audit’s complete, I’ll do it. But I would go against them if she releases her e-mails.

HOLT: So it’s negotiable?

TRUMP: It’s not negotiable, no. Let her release the e-mails. Why did she delete 33,000…

HOLT: Well, I’ll let her answer that.

All that verbiage, and he never answered the question. Then we turn to Secretary Clinton:

HOLT: He also — he also raised the issue of your e-mails. Do you want to respond to that?

CLINTON: I do. You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail.

TRUMP: That’s for sure.

CLINTON: And if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I’m not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.

Done and done. Of course, it would have been better had she made that statement earlier, like about 2012. She has her own problem with directly responding to criticism. But she got it right on Monday.

But that’s a pattern that was repeated as the night wore on. Holt asked Clinton a question, and she would answer it. Holt asked Trump a question, and some weird steam-of-consciousness ravings would come out of his mouth that were barely related to the question. So Holt would push the question a couple more times, and Trump would get more agitated and belligerent.

But in truth Lester Holt said very little during the debate, and for long stretches of time it was just the two candidates reacting to each other.

The Best Is Yet to Come

Michael Tomasky points out that there is plenty of ammunition left with which Clinton could destroy Trump. And he doesn’t even list it all. Here are just some of them:

Trump Foundation. By now you know all about this bogus enterprise, thanks to the great reporting of David Farenthold of The Washington Post. I would imagine there’s more coming, possibly having to do with the kinds of business relationships Trump had with the leading donors to the foundation (a ticket-scalper? Come on.). But even if there’s not more coming, there’s material aplenty already, from the serious (the apparent, and apparently illegal, self-dealing) to the comic (the two grandiose portraits of himself the charity spent tens of thousands of dollars to purchase).

But there’s more! A couple of days ago Josh Marshall wrote,

We now have clear evidence of self-dealing in the payouts made by the Foundation and as of yesterday pretty clear evidence that Trump has used the Foundation to avoid paying taxes on income. The combination could spell real legal trouble for Trump, possible even criminal penalties. In short, you’re not allowed to use a family foundation as a piggy bank or slush fund for tax avoidance and personal or business purposes. We’ve proceeded cautiously in what we know and what we don’t. We’ve also tried to be cognizant of the fact that this is an area of criminal law where intent is critical – which is to say, ignorance of the law is a defense. That said, one top former IRS official involved in oversight of tax exempt organizations told TPM, “Once you see a pattern of that kind of egregious nature, you start to think if whether there’s an appropriate criminal referral there.” Here’s the story.

And today, Talking Points Memo reports,

The New York attorney general’s investigation of the Donald J. Trump Foundation appears to have broadened to include new allegations of self-dealing by Trump that surfaced after the probe began, TPM has learned.

The town of Palm Beach, Florida, has provided documents to the New York Attorney General’s Office as part of the probe, a lawyer for the town confirmed to TPM on Wednesday. The documents relate to a legal dispute that Trump settled with the town using foundation money. The details of the 2007 Palm Beach case were first reported by the Washington Post last week. …

…New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had announced earlier this month, before the Washington Post’s reporting on the Palm Beach case, that his office had opened an investigation into Trump Foundation after it was reported that Trump had used foundation money to buy personal gifts for himself.

The contact with Palm Beach by the Attorney General’s Office suggests its probe had widened to include other alleged acts of self-dealing. The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment Thursday.

Oh, but wait. Remember Trump University? Tomasky writes,

Trump University. In a lifetime of scams too numerous to count and too appalling to rank, this may be Trump’s biggest scam of all. Many people lost their money and got nothing whatsoever out of it. There are depositions that have been made public in which Trump U. employees admit they were under instructions to give students a very hard sell and sometimes to lie to them. Then of course there’s the whole way that the states of Texas and Florida dropped their investigations of it, after donations from the…

… from the Trump Foundation! This is what happened in Florida:

Trump, who bragged during the primaries about controlling politicians through financial support, is facing greater scrutiny for a 2013 contribution from his foundation to a political group working to re-elect Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The $25,000 donation came in just days after Bondi’s office said it was considering joining a New York-led investigation of Trump U. Florida ultimately decided against getting involved in the investigation

And this is what happened in Texas:

A few years earlier, Trump U. also caught the attention of the office of Texas’ then-Attorney General, Greg Abbott. In January 2010, his office opened an investigation into the school in response to complaints about deceptive business practices, and later in the year, the school effectively ended operations in the state altogether. Years later, when Abbott was running for governor, Trump made two donations to Abbott’s campaign, one for $25,000 and another for $10,000.

Hmmm. But wait, there’s more! Tomasky doesn’t even mention Newsweek‘s scoop, which is that one of Trump’s companies violated the U.S. embargo against Cuba!

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

Wow, that should cost Trump some support in Florida. Elsewhere, an anonymous plaintiff has re-filed her suit against Trump that claims he raped her when she was 13 years old. It’s not clear to me whether anything will happen with this suit before the election, but it’s remarkable so little is said about it. See also Snopes. That’s another one Tomasky left out. Tomasky also didn’t mention that U.S. Intelligence officials are still looking into ties between one of Trump’s advisers and the Kremlin.

Tomasky did go into Modelgate —

Modelgate. And speaking of undocumented workers, one of the better scoops of this season that failed to get the oxygen it deserved was this amazing report by James West in Mother Jones about how young female models in Trump’s employ were working in the country illegally and were treated worse than many people treat their dogs. Only one of these women talked to West on the record, but this is a story that would sicken the women watching the next debate, and the men with consciences, too.

Tomasky also mentioned Trump’s history of ripping off contractors and his plan to  round up and deport 12 million people, which certainly deserves more scrutiny.

Someday, Trump may actually regret he ever tried the running for president thing.