Is Donald Trump on the hook to Russian President Vladimir Putin? His tax returns might tell, but he's refusing to release them. (Photos: Getty)

Is Donald Trump on the hook to Russian President Vladimir Putin? His tax returns might tell, but he’s refusing to release them. (Photos: Getty)

Donald Trump is determined to stonewall on releasing his tax returns to the bitter end of his vitriolic campaign keeping voters in the dark on the extent of his connections to Vladimir Putin and Russian financiers. He may owe them tens of millions of dollars through various companies.

But Trump is apparently trying to skate over his tax return controversy and Russian connection as he’s done numerous times before.

He’s gotten a virtual free pass over numerous outrageous and false campaign claims, six bankruptcies, his alleged Trump University fraud and sex assault scandal, and more than 3,500 lawsuits filed against him–many for stiffing investors, small business partners and employees.

In each case, he’s merely repeated the lies over and over, refusing to apologize or admit he’s wrong; or, he’s simply stonewalled or obfuscated as he did on the release of his health information.

The Russian connection, however, is especially troubling.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid made explosive new charges that the FBI possesses “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.”

Update: During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey was asked more than a dozen times about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. Each time he declined to comment.” The double standard was “nothing short of jaw-dropping,” he said.

In a separate statement, Russian chess master Gary Kasparov, a leading Putin critic, charged the Russian president is “absolutely” interfering in the U.S. election.

Four different campaign organizations affiliated with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party have been hacked since late May. The outpouring of emails through Wikileaks has benefited Trump’s campaign immensely.

At the same time, Putin continues to rattle sabers about a nuclear war with the United States and make threats against neighboring countries allied with United States and NATO, the treaty organization made up mostly of Western European nations.

In the latest development, a Putin surrogate warned Norway today (Oct. 31) the nation would be considered a nuclear target because of the arrival of 330 US Marines at Værnes, an international airport serving Trondheim in central Norway.

Frants Klintsevich, a deputy chairman of Russia’s defence and security committee, called the token force a “direct military threat,” on TV2, Russia’s state controlled television.

Russian television has been broadcasting anti-U.S. propaganda almost non-stop during the election, according to Kasparov.

Despite Putin’s bellicose stance toward the United States, Trump has refused to say anything other than positive statements about the Russian dictator.

Kasparov sees something sinister in the relationship.

“Trump, even not being a very smart politician, he should recognize the damage done by his repeated statements about Putin. But he keeps doing that.

“So that’s why I think we should look for more sinister reasons for Trump being so pro-Putin,” he said.

Kasparov told CNN’s Jake Tapper, Oct. 21, that the Russian government likely has Trump campaign emails that are equally embarrassing as the outpouring of Clinton emails.

But so far it has refrained from releasing them.

“I don’t believe for a second that Trump was clean and they couldn’t find anything,” he said. “More likely, they had plenty but they decided to use it privately to good effect, whether we are talking about debts or blackmail.”

Trump has played down his ties to Russia, claiming in one interview his company has only sold a few condos there and has “zero investments in Russia.”

But several of Trump’s businesses outside of Russia are entangled with Russian financiers inside Putin’s circle, according to Time magazine.

“Trump has sought and received funding from Russian investors for his business ventures, especially after most American banks stopped lending to him following his multiple bankruptcies,” according to Max Boot a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump’s two top foreign policy advisers, Carter Page and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, have business or other ties to Russia, according to Boot. Page has slammed U.S. foreign policy while praising Russia’s in speeches.

Of course, Trump’s tax returns would likely shed considerable light on his finances, where his money comes from to finance his business empire and detail potential conflicts of interest.

But vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, and his campaign manager and chief mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, said in their two most recent appearances that Trump will not be releasing his tax returns before the election.

“I think as soon as the audit is completed,” Pence said when asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when Trump would release his returns.

Conway said essentially the same during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“Not until our accountants and our lawyers say that we should,” she said, “We’re under audit.”

Every presidential candidate, since Republican candidate Gerald Ford in 1976, has made their full tax returns available for public inspection before the election.

Legally, Trump is under no obligation to keep his taxes secret while being audited, according to the IRS.

Trump’s position, despite defying 40 years of tradition, is extremely hypocritical, because of his repeated claims that Clinton is not being forthcoming with her emails.

Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest election coverage.