Rep. Eric Swalwell to Salon: Trump's shady tax record threatens the American dream

Rep. Eric Swalwell talks about the economy under Donald Trump and whether the president is a tax cheat

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 20, 2018 6:05PM (EDT)

Eric Swalwell (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Eric Swalwell (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., spoke with Salon about his possible presidential candidacy in 2020. One issue that I quickly realized matters more than many politicians appreciate — the erosion of the American dream under President Donald Trump and how his murky tax history impacts all of us.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Have you made a decision yet about your own potential presidential candidacy in 2020?

No, I am considering running. I'm going to make that decision right after the midterms and our family's full term. We're expecting a little girl imminently, and so I want to have a healthy baby, kind of see where the country's going with the midterm elections and then make a decision shortly after.

What would you say to Trump's supporters who point to the low unemployment rate or claim that the economy is booming?

Yes, you know what? I think those indicators are not the economy. The economy is not the stock market. It's not the unemployment rate. It's not the GDP. It's you. It's how much money do you have in your savings account. Two-thirds of Americans have less than a thousand dollars. Last time that I checked, it's whether you can look at your kids and believe that because they have schools that can prepare them and that there's industries and jobs around them, that they're going to do better.

To me, the economy is, are you doing better? When you look at your kids, are they dreaming bigger? Today, I don't think that's the case. If you're at the top, if you're working on the top floor of a building and you got a big tax cut and your wages are going upward, yes, you're going to think these economists doing really well. But, if you're an American who's not in the stock market and have less than a thousand dollars in your savings account and your kids' school is crumbling, it's a different economy. And that's the economy that too many Americans live in.

What are your predictions to the midterms in the House and in the Senate?

I believe we're going to win the House. I say that because I've been to nearly half the states over 150 cities in the last two years. I've met with nearly all the candidates we have in the most competitive elections. I have my own initiative called The Future 40, which is 44 candidates in their 40's or under... and many of the most competitive districts in the country. It's got a good sense of the caliber of our candidates, the energy on the ground, and the resources they have, I do see us winning the House.

Now, it's going to be I think in a lot of these districts by 1,000 or 2,000 votes or fewer, that's going to be the margin of victory, and these are still very tight districts. But I think these candidates are top notch and the case that they're making, which is that most of the candidates they're against voted to gut help for their protections and voted to give tax cuts to the top floor while everyone else on the floor works hard and sees very little. That's a case to be made.

For the House, I feel pretty good. About that prediction on the Senate? Harder to tell. I would have told you a month ago before the Kavanaugh hearings, that is we win the House, we win the Senate. But, certainly, the Kavanaugh hearings have put a new dynamic into this race that was not there before. Yes, but that one's harder for me to say.

My last question is about Trump's tax returns, which is something that I find kind of remarkable, because it has not really been focused on yet. Because, in my mind, there seems to be an obvious intersection between that issue and the Trump-Russia scandals. I guess it's a two for one question, I hope you can forgive me, but I just feel like this is something that really should be focused on more as a potential presidential candidate or just as a congressman. What would you do to sort of redirect the media narrative back to these issues?

I think most people honestly are worried about their own tax returns and how they're doing, whether they can look their family in the eye at the kitchen table and say that the president who they supported is helping them, as I said, do better and dream bigger. But if the president, who has defined himself as someone who was successful in business, cheated on his taxes, then it's fair to ask is youhe going to be able deliver when he talks about lifting up the success, as he talks about lifting up the fortune of the American people. That's fair and that's something that just for the integrity of the office, it's something we should know. If Democrats win the House, we will see his tax returns. We will know if our president is a tax cheat, and that's a question that the American people deserve to know, because he has told them that his success can be their success. If his success is a fraud, then it's concerning that people will be putting their success... and pinning their success and their hopes on him.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Eric Swalwell