A few days before the 2012 presidential elections, businessman Donald Trump implored Barack Obama to release his college transcripts and passport records.
On Saturday, Dr. Orly Taitz - who has filed several birther lawsuits against Obama - posted on her website that the president has paid more than $5 million in legal fees to national law firm Perkins Coie to keep his personal, and possibly professional, records hidden from the public. The $5 million figure, which was previously thought to be less than $3 million, does not include fees paid to other parties and law firms acting on behalf of Obama.
In addition, Obama appointed a partner at Perkins Coie, Robert Bauer, as White House Counsel ten months after taking office in 2009. Bauer also served as general counsel for the Democratic National Committee and "Obama for America" presidential campaign.
For opponents, the president's secrecy provides political ammunition given that, in 2008, then-candidate Obama accused his colleagues at the U.S. senate, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, of a lack of transparency for not releasing more IRS tax returns.
"Senator [Hillary] Clinton can't claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances," Obama campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs said during the election season.
In 2008, Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera used the issue of disclosure in attacking Republican nominee John McCain. "John McCain's idea of being a different kind of Republican means disrespecting the voters by denying them the right to examine the links between his political career and . . . business ventures."
In 1980, Barack Obama was identified as Barry Soetoro in his mother's divorce papers. Ann Dunham underwent divorce proceedings with Barack's/Barry's adopted father, Lolo Soetoro. However, the president has not provided a clear explanation regarding the name change to "Barack Obama".
During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush released his college records, and would later be the target of mockery from the mainstream media and Hollywood for earning "C" grades at Yale.
In August 2012, Wayne Allen Root - a former classmate of Obama at Columbia University - alleged that the real scandal can be found in the president's college records. In his column, Root (who as a political science major does not recall ever meeting Obama) said:
My bet is that Obama will never unseal his records because they contain information that could destroy his chances for re-election . . . . Why are the college records, of a 51-year-old President of the United States, so important to keep secret? . . . If you could unseal Obama’s Columbia University records I believe you’d find that:
A) He rarely ever attended class.
B) His grades were not those typical of what we understand it takes to get into Harvard Law School.
C) He attended Columbia as a foreign exchange student.
D) He paid little for either undergraduate college or Harvard Law School because of foreign aid and scholarships given to a poor foreign students like this kid Barry Soetoro from Indonesia.
Some birthers have become suspicious of the administration's handling of Obama's personal records. After 2010, the White House was taking heat after the president's "short form" Hawaii birth certificate was shown to have several digital manipulations and errors. The suspicions prompted Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio to form a team of forensic experts who, on July 2012, would conclude that the "short form" document was "definitely fraudulent".
By then, Obama's lawyers had moved to submit a different ("long form") version posted it on the White House website. In April 2011, Perkins Coie law partner Judith Corley sent a letter to Hawaii's Department of Health and stated that the agency only submits a "short form" certificate. Corley requested a waiver of the department's policy and obtained two copies of the "long form" birth certificate.
After calling Barack Obama the "least transparent" president in U.S. history, Trump said in November 2012 that "[Obama] has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to make sure that it stays that way." The real estate mogul made the allegations amid a highly contentious presidential campaign in which Obama's Super Pacs accused Republican challenger Mitt Romney of not releasing enough tax returns.
In a separate statement, Donald Trump said:
You know, Obama spent over $4 million in legal fees to keep these things quiet, and then he stands up and says ‘I want to see [Mitt Romney's] tax returns.’ He’s given tax returns. And if they give more – and I understand what Mitt’s saying, they’re very, very complex and 100 percent straight, 100 percent legal – but they look at little nitpicking things, and then you have another month of debate.
Now if Obama gives some of his sealed records where all of this money has been spent to keep them sealed, I would certainly make that trade. I think that’s a great trade. … I think you would find some things that are very, very interesting and very shocking.
On his YouTube channel, Trump also said:
Obviously [Barack Obama] was not born in this country or, if he was, he said he wasn’t in order to receive financial aid and in order to have a clear and very easy path into a college or university. Only a very stupid person would believe otherwise. There can be no other reason that so much money would not be so easily and routinely collected for charity.