Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, says the president’s “biggest fear” is that his full tax return might get released someday. That has already become something of a reality thanks to a bombshell investigation from the New York Times that revealed the billionaire president is personally guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and often pays no income tax.
“Trump's biggest fear is that if his tax return is released, that there's a whole slew of organizations, of accountants and forensic accountants, that will rip through it and he will end up with a massive tax bill, fraud penalties, fines and possibly even tax fraud,” Cohen told The Daily Mail.
"Based on what I know and what has now been reported, he may soon be the first sitting president to go from the White House straight to prison.”
Cohen himself pled guilty in 2018 to multiple counts of tax evasion, as well as campaign finance violations, and has aimed to convert his financial malfeasance on the part of the president into a different kind of windfall through a tell-all memoir and podcast.
After years of journalists and congressional investigators seeking this information, the Times reported on Sunday that the president only paid $750 of income tax in each of his first two years as president, and has avoided income tax in 11 of the last 18 years by listing massive business losses at properties like his worldwide portfolio of golf courses.
Trump has refuted the Times’ reporting, calling it “totally fake news” in a briefing on Sunday, and said that information on his tax returns would be coming. “It’ll all be revealed,” he said in a press conference. “It’s going to come out.”
That could happen in a number of ways. The Manhattan District Attorney and Trump have been locked in a prolonged legal battle over access to his tax returns as part of a potential fraud investigation, which has bounced between local and appellate courts, and went all the way to the Supreme Court before being sent back down. Two committees from the House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, are also after Trump’s business records, though thus far they’ve been stymied in appeals courts.
And of course Trump could always release the returns himself, a common custom by presidential candidates and officeholders alike, but the president says the IRS is auditing him and he will release them once the process is done. In 2019, the Trump-appointed IRS commissioner, Charles Retting, said there’s no rule prohibiting him from releasing the return while he’s being audited.