Withheld documents: Trump’s taxes versus Hillary’s Whitewater draft indictments

Two sets of documents, each related to one of the two presidential frontrunners, are being withheld from public scrutiny, yet only one set is making big headlines.  Democrats and NeverTrumpers are demanding that Donald Trump release his income tax returns, even as he is under audit, and making huge amounts of news.   Meanwhile, the National Archives is refusing to release at least 12 draft indictments of Hillary Clinton produced in the course of the Whitewater independent counsel investigation. and almost nobody outside the conservative blogosphere is noticing.

John Fund of the steadfastly anti-Trump National Review calls the Trump tax documents, which he has not seen, a ‘ticking time bomb.”

Some Trump delegates and their alternates should write him an open letter demanding his unredacted tax returns. If he declines, they should declare they will abstain on the first ballot of the convention, driving him below the number needed to nominate. The delegates should not give Republicans a time bomb that could help take down GOP control of the House or the Senate, or both. 

Mitt Romney, who eventually released his own tax returns after first refusing to do so, called Trump’s refusal “disqualifying” and speculated the tax returns contain a “bombshell.” I vividly remember the consequences of Romney’s release of his tax returns. As with any wealthy individual, there are countless claims that can questioned and disputed. And Romney was raked over the coals for his.

That disputability of any complex tax return is, in fact, why Trump is being audited. Not necessarily because of a bombshell but because the tax code is so huge, self-contradictory, and subject to interpretation that anyone’s decisions can be disputed. Especially when the IRS is in the hands of Lois Lerners. It is perfectly understandable to me why Trump would not release his tax returns. It only would feed his enemies ammunition, regardless of how upright and legally justified his  returns were. He is guilty of being rich and attempting to minimize his taxes. That’s enough to demagogue him.   

Meanwhile, it is not Hillary Clinton herself who is stonewalling her embarrassing documents.  She has the taxpayer funded National Archives doing her dirty work. Judicial Watch:

New details continue to emerge from Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act fight with the National Archives over the release of draft indictments of Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater case. According to the Archives, release of the indictments—drafted by an independent counsel examining the Clintons’ relationship to a corrupt Arkansas S&L and an alleged cover-up—would violate grand jury secrecy and Mrs. Clinton’s personal privacy. FOIA request denied.

Judicial Watch declined to take “no” for an answer, and so off to court we went. The case is now in the hands of a federal judge.

In the course of litigation, new facts have come to light. Under FOIA, the Archives must produce a “Vaughn Index”—a tantalizing and at times maddening document. A Vaughn Index is the government saying: we are not giving you the documents, but here is an “index” of what we are not giving you, and why we are not giving it to you. Your tax dollars at work.

In the National Archives Vaughn Index for the case, we learn that the government is sitting on at least twelve versions of the the draft indictment of Mrs. Clinton, including one “listing overt acts.” From the public record, we know that the Whitewater case centered around whether Mrs. Clinton, while First Lady, lied to federal investigators about her role in the corrupt Arkansas S&L, concealed documents (including material under federal subpoena), and took other steps to cover-up her involvment. Prosecutors ultimately decided not to indict Mrs. Clinton, concluding that they could not win the complicated, largely circumstantial case against such a high-profile figure.

The draft indictments range from three to forty pages—the former likely excerpts or “scraps” from longer documents, the Vaughn Index indicates. Some of the drafts doubtless are copies but many clearly are not. A total of 451 pages of draft indictments are being withheld by the Archives.

In its final brief in the case, Judicial Watch took a wrecking ball to the Archives’ grand jury secrecy and personal privacy claims. Judicial Watch noted “the truly enormous quantities of grand jury material already made public” in the independent counsel’s final report. Judicial Watch provided the court with a detailed list of grand jury and non-grand jury material that had already been made public. If there ever was a valid claim to grand jury secrecy in this closely scrutinized case, it is long gone.

The Judicial Watch brief noted that the Archives “fails to identify a single, specific privacy interest Mrs. Clinton still has in the draft indictments” following publication of the independent counsel’s report and “hundreds of pages of grand jury materials, non-grand jury materials, and independent counsel legal theories and analysis that are already in the public domain.”

A typical FOIA privacy claim centers on unwarranted invasions of personal privacy. But in Mrs. Clinton’s case, the brief noted, the Archives “makes no claims that disclosure of the draft indictments will reveal any particular personal, medical or financial information about Mrs. Clinton, much less anything intimate or potentially embarrassing.”

Oddly enough, one set of documents is private, produced with private money and protected by privacy laws, and the other was paid for by taxpayers and is being withheld by a taxpayer funded agency responsible for giving the public access to important information.

We already live in Bizarro World.