‘Show me the receipts!’ — Americans get ready to protest in Tax Marches on April 15th
Back in January, Nancy Huehnergarth — a food policy advocate from New York — started a Change.org petition calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Over the last three months, almost 350,000 people have joined Nancy’s cause, and she’s been working hard to help organize her supporters to make phone calls, raise money, and get prepared to attend Tax Marches protests that’ll take place all over the country on April 15.
I recently chatted with Nancy to get a sense of what — if anything — has changed for her since President Trump’s inauguration, and why she and millions of others think it necessary that Trump release his returns to the public. Check it out below and have a look at Nancy’s petition here.
Q: It’s been almost three months since you started your Change.orgpetition. Has anything happened since January that continues to motivate you to push for President Trump to release his returns?
A lot has happened, and it hasn’t been good. Every week, we learn about another link between the Trump administration or former Trump campaign staffers and Russia, which adds to the suspicion that the Trump team colluded with Russia during the presidential election. For example, Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was forced out after he failed to report contact with the Russian ambassador in December. Later we learned that he had been paid to advise Russian companies, including a Kremlin-backed television network. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, also had meetings with the Russian ambassador and a sanctioned Russian bank that he didn’t report. Recently we learned that Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may have held a secret meeting in the Seychelles in January to establish a Trump-Putin back channel, according to reports.
Now, more than ever, Americans need to see Trump’s tax returns so we can find out if he has business ties with Russia or other foreign nations. If our president is compromised, we need to know.
Washington is known for its partisanship. Why do you think there’s a partisan divide regarding Mr. Trump’s tax returns?
The GOP is sitting pretty right now with Trump in the White House and Republican majorities in the Senate and House. It appears they’re terrified to have Trump’s tax returns released because the contents of those documents could damage not only Trump’s presidency but the Republican legislative agenda, as well. Of course, the Democrats are eager to force Trump to release his tax returns because it could show financial connections to Russia or other foreign nations, which could put the president in violation of the Emoluments Clause or demonstrate other conflicts of interest.
Have you filed your taxes yet? Did you file them before or after you started this petition? And given Trump’s refusal to share his own, do you have different feelings about them this year than you have in years past?
I’m in the process of getting my tax returns prepared right now, and I do feel that the rules that apply to me don’t apply to people like Trump. If I apply for a mortgage, the bank will insist on seeing my tax returns, and I’ll have to comply. But the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, refuses to properly divest himself from his business holdings around the world, like all of those who have served before him. And he won’t even release his tax returns, which makes me think he has something to hide. How do we know that the policies he supports and the actions he takes aren’t being done to increase his business profits, at the expense of the American people?
What do you hope happens as a result of the upcoming tax marches?
I get the feeling that President Trump and the Republican members of Congress are hoping that Americans forget about Trump’s tax returns and the strange goings-on between Trump and Russia. That’s not happening. On April 15th, there will be more than 130 tax marches in cities and towns around the U.S., including the national Tax March in Washington, DC. I’ll be marching in New York City, and I think the marchers will send a clear message to the President and Congress: We want to see Trump’s tax returns, and we’re not going away until we do!
Perhaps the tax marches will encourage members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are both investigating Trump-Russia ties, to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. On April 15th, they’ll see that outrage over the president’s lack of transparency is only growing greater with time.
What is the worst that can happen, in your opinion, if we never see Trump’s tax returns? What’s at stake?
If Trump is not compelled to release his tax returns, it sets a terrible precedent that could easily encourage any future presidential candidate or president to do the same. What’s at stake is transparency and trust. For 40 years, Americans have been able to review the tax returns of their presidential candidates and presidents. We’re able to see if there are any conflicts-of-interest that could make them unsuited for the highest office in the land. If candidates stop releasing their tax returns, voter trust will plummet and candidates will be able to hide possibly unsavory information from the public. And if Trump does not release his tax returns, we may never get to the bottom of his strange affinity for Putin, and his unwillingness to criticize Russia.
A.J. Walton is the Sr. Communications Manager at Change.org.