‘Do as I say not as I do’: Trump’s old tweet attacking Obama’s tax bill comes back to haunt him

Andrew Naughtie
·3-min read
Barack Obama at his final White House press briefing (AP)
Barack Obama at his final White House press briefing (AP)

The revelation that Donald Trump has paid paltry sums in income tax over the past 20 years has thrown unflattering attention on the president’s past statements – in particular those directed at his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama.

After the New York Times published its story showing that Mr Trump twice paid just $750 a year in income tax (and in several other years nothing at all), there resurfaced a message in which he scolded Mr Obama for his supposedly thin tax filings.

“@BarackObama who wants to raise all our taxes,” he wrote in 2012, “only pays 20.5% on $790k salary. Do as I say not as I do.”

Mr Obama’s income tax rate was somewhat low for those in his salary bracket because he and his wife donated thousands of dollars to charity.

Various other tweets of Mr Trump’s have drawn new attention since the New York Times story. High up the list is a 2012 message in which he linked to a Daily Mail story reporting that “HALF of Americans don't pay income tax despite crippling govt debt.”

Also making the rounds is a 2015 post showing the president supposedly signing that year’s return, which he then refused to make public – along with all his others – based on the false premise that he could not release returns while under audit by the IRS.

Mr Trump tweeted myriad grievances about Barack Obama during his time in office, some related to policy – especially high tax rates – but many focused on the baseless and racist theory that the president was hiding his supposed Kenyan citizenship.

And during the 2012 election campaign, he began to pile in on the president for obliging Mitt Romney to release 20 years of his own tax returns, repeatedly demanding that Mr Romney pledge to make them public only in exchange for Mr Obama’s college applications and records.

At one point, Mr Trump offered to donate $5m to charity if the then-president released his university papers, though he did not specify what he imagined Mr Obama might be hiding in them.

Joe Biden’s campaign is already making hay from the New York Times’s tax returns investigation, running a stark ad comparing Mr Trump’s trivial bills to those paid by low-income Americans while also selling stickers reading “I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump”.

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