Of course, the presidential race is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But what if there’s another parallel race going on — a race to see how much scandalous material on both candidates will leak out before the election and who will be most damaged by it. Call it a contest between the IRS’s secrets (which Trump has reason to be nervous about) and Wikileaks (whose past leaks have already jolted Hillary’s campaign).
The past of both candidates might contain material that could tilt the direction of the presidential election. Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns despite early promises to do so and polls showing that 62 percent of Americans think it’s important for him to do. He has to worry about a potential leak of his IRS returns similar to the one Mitt Romney suffered in 2012.
Both sides are clearly nervous about possible revelations before the November election — or even before the first presidential debate on September 26. Donald Trump Jr., the candidate’s son, admitted to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review last week that the real reason for the non-release of the tax returns had to do with their political impact, rather than any ongoing IRS audit. Speaking to the paper’s editors, Trump Jr. said, “Because he’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create . . . financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from [my father’s] main message.” In other words, the returns could reveal that his father’s wealth is substantially less than the $10 billion he claims, or that he makes fewer charitable contributions than he has stated, or that he takes advantages of tax loopholes and often pays zero or little in taxes.
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So instead the Trump campaign will take its chances that the returns won’t leak. Mainstream media outlets are already sending out everything but engraved invites for someone to leak the returns. Last week, CNN reported that both Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, and Bob Woodward, an associate editor at the Washington Post, told a Harvard symposium they would go to jail to protect any sources who gave them the tax returns.
What could be in Hillary’s e-mails? In addition to embarrassing details of the hand-in-glove relationship some of her aides kept with the Clinton Foundation, there could be documents related to Benghazi, PJ Media reports. NRO’s Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, has reported that many analysts and members of Congress believe that Hillary Clinton and the State Department were actively arming Islamic jihadists seeking to topple the Assad dictatorship in Syria in 2012 — and that they were having weapons shipped from Benghazi to the jihadists.
Some of the recipients could even have had links to the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS). Circumstantial evidence keeps piling up that Clinton and the State Department had a reason to obscure the truth about the Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four Americans. “What if just weeks before the 2012 election it had been revealed that the Obama administration was shipping arms through a third country to benefit Islamic radicals?” one congressman on the House Intelligence Committee asked me. “It would have been another version of the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, and it would have led to a public uproar that could have affected Obama’s reelection. Clinton and the State Department have strenuously denied any involvement with the shipment of arms to Syrian jihadists.
Why is Assange so eager to boast that his future revelations will damage Hillary Clinton? He has repeatedly said he believes that the current failed state in Libya was caused by her aggressive support of the American role in overthrowing Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. He has called her a “liberal war hawk” who would misuse American military power if she were president.There’s another more ironic explanation for Assange’s antipathy to Hillary. The public justification for the existence of Wikileaks is that it supports “radical transparency” — a belief that decisions taken behind closed doors by government officials and elites should be revealed to the public as much as possible. And what candidate for high government office in a democratic country is less transparent than Hillary Clinton, who this month went so far as to conceal here diagnosis of pneumonia? It would be rich irony indeed if Hillary Clinton’s obsession with secrecy acted like a red flag in front of a bull and motivated people to strip away her protective layers right before the most crucial political moment of her life.
— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.