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Sunday, April 07, 2019

The President's Tax Returns

Thus far, I have not heard a legal argument against the right of the House Ways and Means Committee to examine the President's tax returns. The statute, which was enacted after the Teapot Dome scandal, says that the Committee may examine the tax returns of "any person" as part of an investigation. Is the argument against compliance some sort of constitutional argument? 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on April 7, 2019 at 07:54 PM | Permalink


If "legitimate legislative purpose" includes "anything 'generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it,'" (which is the standard for Speech or Debate immunity), that includes executive oversight.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 8, 2019 1:36:31 PM


Couldn't any presidential impeachment inquiry be described as political or retaliatory?

Posted by: Gerard | Apr 8, 2019 9:53:51 AM

On the radio version of this story this morning, the newscaster stated that the Trump administration position would be that a request for "political reasons" is excluded from the statute. In light of the above assertion that the statute contains no exceptions, I am looking forward to the textualist argument that "no exception" means "there's an exception for requests made for political reasons." Given our current political climate, I would be disappointed but not surprised if such an exception were to be found by the courts that will inevitably be asked to rule on the question.

Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | Apr 8, 2019 8:50:47 AM

Isn't the argument that the statute implicitly requires a legitimate legislative purpose and cannot be used to harass anyone or for partisan purposes? Forget about Trump for the moment. Could the Chairman obtain the returns of someone running against him in the Democratic Primary? The statute doesn't contain any such limitation but surely we would think that would be improper and a request that a federal court should block. So the issue here is whether the Chairman and the Democratic Party, with which he is acting in concert, have an illegitimate purpose. In that regard, all the "out-of-court" statements made by various House members about why they want to see Trump's tax returns ought to come into the record, just like Trump's tweets come into the record in connection with challenges to his executive actions.

Posted by: Douglas Levene | Apr 8, 2019 3:30:29 AM

Trump's lawyer, Will Consovoy, is arguing that trying to get Trump's taxes violates Trump's First Amendment rights because theb Democrats are merely punishing Trump for having different political views than they do. This seems like a pretty rich argument coming from Trump, but 2019 will be 2019.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 7, 2019 11:43:04 PM

Interesting. It is recommended indeed to read the link hereby ( CNN) and observe that Democrats members at the House, are trying to tie Trump and his tax returns issues, to potential criminal investigations ( Interference in the elections of 2016 by Russia and more mentioned there ). Here I quote for example Cummings:

"He's made all kinds of claims that he doesn't have relationships with Russia. He told us he didn't have any relationships with Russia, we come to find out that's not accurate. So there've been a lot of allegations, but I think the tax returns where he has to swear that the information is accurate, that would tell us a lot."

End of quotation:

But not to forget, that if it is a " fishing expedition " it may be constitutionally wrong. They need to have a certain solid or reasonable suspicion for it. One may raise also, the Emolument clause ( forbidding the president from receiving any benefit from foreign or domestic actors ). Tax returns, even prior to his term, may shed some light on it of course. There are some pending lawsuits in this regard.

Here to CNN:



Posted by: El roam | Apr 7, 2019 8:40:52 PM

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