What could go wrong?
Quite a bit, actually. Last week, in “Why Trusting Donald Trump on Judges Is Folly,” I set forth some of the powerful substantive and political incentives a victorious Trump would have to wriggle out of sticking to judges on that list, starting with the fact that very few Trump voters are doctrinaire originalists. My colleague David Frum and Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy have offered powerful arguments of their own.
Hewitt has no persuasive answers for those arguments. But he needn’t look to others to see the folly of his position. He need only look at his own past dealings with Trump.
In February 2015, as now, the law professor was interviewing the billionaire, who hadn’t quite officially declared his presidential candidacy, on his radio program, where Hewitt asked, “On the day you announce, how many years of tax returns will you release?”
“I will go over tax returns,” Trump replied, “and let me tell you, nobody knows the tax-returns world or business better than me. You have to understand, I’m a businessman, I work for myself. I have a phenomenal net worth, a lot of cash, and very little debt. Actually, I’m the only candidate in history who has submitted his financials the last time. And I didn’t run. I actually submitted my financials, because to be very honest, I’m very proud of my financials. My financials now are much better.”
Seeing that his question wasn’t quite answered, Hewitt said, “Would you release tax returns, though?”
Said Trump, “I would release tax returns. And I’d also explain to people that as a person looking to make money, I’m in the business of making money until I do this. And if I won, I would make money for our country. I would make so much money for our country that they wouldn’t have to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.”
Then Trump started complaining about China and how hard it is to become a Mexican citizen. “I got it,” Hewitt said, “but I want to stay focused on the tax returns. How many years back?”
“The answer is I would do it,” Trump said. “I will tell you upfront that as a private person, I’m very proud of this, I want to pay as little taxes as I can as a private person.”
“Of course,” Hewitt said. “But how many years back would you go on the day you announce? Three? Five?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I actually have not even thought of that,” Trump said. “But I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary.”
“A couple of years?” Hewitt said.
“Well, what have they been doing?” Trump asked. “They’ve really been doing one year … but I would certainly—I’m very proud of what I’ve done, I do pay tax, but I’m very proud of what I did. I will say this. You will see piles and piles and piles of paper stacked many feet into the air. Because the system is so complex that it is disgraceful.”
“I think two or three years would be great,” Hewitt said.