We’re now more than halfway through October, and while plenty of unexpected things have transpired, we’ve all been waiting to see if that one big October surprise arrives that either puts Donald Trump back into contention or knocks him out completely. It may not come; usually the biggest “October surprise” is that there isn’t one. But here’s the thing.
Even though Trump’s tax returns leaked a few weeks back, the Manhattan District Attorney is still fighting in court to obtain them so he can give them to the grand jury that’s in the process of indicting Trump, and Trump is still fighting to drag out that inevitable outcome for a bit longer. Why all the fuss, since his tax returns have already leaked anyway? That’s because they actually haven’t leaked.
Although you may be tempted to recall things differently, the reality is that not one of you reading this has seen Donald Trump’s tax returns. What actually happened was that the New York Times saw Trump’s tax returns, and then gave you its take on what was in them. The Times was so exhaustive in its explanation of what was in Trump’s returns, it feels like we’ve all seen them, but we haven’t.
The only plausible reason the Times didn’t publish the actual tax return documents is that its source must have only agreed to share them on the condition that they not be directly published. The most logical explanation for such a request would be that doing so might give away the identity of the source, which could put the source at risk while Trump is still President of the United States.
But if we get closer to election day and the source concludes that Donald Trump is likely to lose anyway, or if a different source steps up to the plate, is it possible that we could see Trump’s actual tax returns surface publicly before the election? And would they have an impact?
We don’t have any reason to suspect that the New York Times held back on what it found in Trump’s tax returns; its published analysis was detailed and exhaustive. But what if there’s something important in there that the Times didn’t realize was important, and therefore neglected to mention? After all, the Times is well sourced enough to have obtained the story about Trump wanting to dress up like Superman on his way out of the hospital, but oblivious enough to have buried it in the twenty-seventh paragraph of an otherwise pointless article.
Gut feeling says we’ll see more about Donald Trump’s tax returns, one way or another, before election day. Of course it’s difficult to predict what kind of impact any given “October surprise” will or won’t have on an election, so we can’t sit back and count on anything. It’s still all about voter turnout at the end of the day. But it’s difficult to imagine that in an election this bizarre, with two weeks still remaining in October, we’ve seen the last of the October surprises already.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report