Monday, February 20, 2017

An Open Letter to the New Treasury Secretary

February 20, 2017

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
United States of America

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I’m seventy-nine years old and have never failed to submit a tax return, from the time I worked as a delivery boy in high school, through my two decades in the U.S. military, two decades working for a government laboratory in national security, right up until today, in my retirement.

I’ve willingly paid my taxes under 11 presidents; six republicans and five democrats. Like serving in the military, for me, paying taxes was a way of giving back to my country for the rights and privileges I enjoyed as a citizen of this great nation.

Now I am looking at the prospect come April 15th of paying taxes under another president, Donald J Trump. I have to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that for the first time ever, I hesitate to do so. Not for ideological reasons — although I strongly disagree with Mr. Trump’s ideology — and not because Mr. Trump avoided paying taxes for so many years. I hesitate because Mr. Trump refuses to make a clean break from his global business interests. Until he does so, he will unavoidably be violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Trump claimed that he eliminated potential trouble with emoluments by turning over operation of the business to his children. That argument is inane, but even if we believed that the President would not discuss Trump business dealings with “the kids,” as long as he continues to profit from his business empire—which he does whether or not he is nominally in charge, the possibility that foreign actors will attempt to affect his policies by frequenting his hotels, golf courses, resorts, and casinos, remains an issue of national concern.

Mr. Trump apparently feels that divestiture is too high a price to pay to be President of the United States, just as he felt it was “smart” not to pay taxes.

We might understand better the intricacies and entanglements of Mr. Trump’s business holdings and partners if we could examine his tax returns, but he has steadfastly refused to release them  — something every president has done since Gerald Ford.

So you see the reason for my hesitation to submit my tax return on April 15 — I can’t be sure that my tax dollars won’t be going to line the pockets of foreign actors whose business dealings with the President have curried his favor. Maybe Mr. Trump is right; maybe it isn’t smart to pay taxes. At least, not until we have a president willing to abide by the Constitution.

Thank you for your understanding.

Very Respectfully,

Richard Badalamente, LTC, USAF (Ret.)

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