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Wikileaks and the Great Trump Tax Escape

The news that Donald Trump will not, as promised, release his tax returns (because people "don't care at all") was greeted by howls of dismay. It was also met with a declaration of war from an unexpected source. Wikileaks – the president's erstwhile supporter on the campaign trail – issued a clarion call for transparency on Twitter. 'Send them to us,' urged the publishing network, 'we'll give them a good home.'

Why would they do this?

Many were surprised by Assange's apparent u-turn on Trump, but they shouldn't be. It is typical to see Wikileaks as either criminals or heroes and to view their actions without a trace of ambiguity, when in reality there is moral ambiguity in much of what they do.

This wasn't the end of a beautiful friendship; Assange's commitment to transparency extends beyond the bounds of political allegiance. Author Luke Harding agrees, observing that Assange is "anti-secrecy" rather than "pro-accountability": he is predictably liable to release information regardless of the consequences.

What are they likely to contain?

The consequences of the information contained within Trump's tax returns could be very grave indeed. The Donald does nothing by halves. As Mitt Romney puts it, "Given Mr Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size."

Vanity Fair speculates that Trump may have paid "little or no federal income tax ever since [1993]" and that he may use tax havens to hide his wealth. There are also serious concerns that his business interests in countries like Russia could provide him with a strong motivation to modify American's trading position with those nations.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post notes, "No president has had the kind of complex financial interests Trump does, a network of companies and arrangements and partnerships that provide extraordinary opportunities to essentially sell the presidency."

The First Court Case

Wikileaks aren't the only ones after those papers. Unconvinced by Kellyanne Conway's backpedalling, a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a lawsuit. The suit, which will be argued by high-profile lawyers, will ask a federal court to order Mr Trump to stop taking payment from foreign government entities.

A neat aside: "the legal team intended to use the lawsuit to try to get a copy of Mr Trump's federal tax returns, which are needed to properly assess what income... Mr Trump has received from foreign governments."

Trump vs. The Internet

These days, very little remains private if there is sufficient interest in its publication. In attempting to suppress the information, Trump is fighting a losing battle. The depressing truth is that we already know there's something dodgy about Trump's tax returns.

Once the details are released, past events have shown that he is likely to have more success drowning the incriminating details in a cacophony of alternative facts.

"For a man to do anything intelligent he has to know what's actually going on" says Assange. But this is becoming increasingly difficult.

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