The Coming Crisis

In little over two months, we’ll face one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes. That phrase is so often an empty cliche. Now it’s true. With all other possible checks on the President’s actions failing, a check at the ballot box is the only option remaining. Assuming the Democrats wrest control of the House of Representatives, the first order of business needs to be subpoena and take possession of the President’s tax returns.

Early last month, I wrote this post (sub req) based on the expertise of longtime House staff lawyers with the key investigative committees, explaining the details of how the House can get possession of his tax returns. There are key details and two different ways it can come about. In one approach the House would subpoena the President directly (a much less preferable option). In the other, the House would subpoena the IRS directly. The details are key and I set them forth in this post (sub req).

This may seem to sum like some sort of victorious gotcha, since the President’s refusal to turn over his tax returns has been such a point of controversy for more than two years. But it’s not. It’s actually the most important first order of business for the House. Assuming the Democrats do not control the Senate, and even if they did, the work of the House for the next two years will be oversight and reining in Trump’s lawless Presidency. There is no end of the list of things from the last two years that merit investigation – many of which do not directly touch on the President, or at least his personal actions or finances. But the most critical ones have to do with the President himself. That includes not only the broader Russia question but the equally critical question of whether and how the President is using the Presidency to stabilize and grow his private business.

None of these critical investigations are at all possible without having a clear understanding of the President’s personal finances and those of the Trump Organization. It’s not one among many to-dos. It’s the first order of business. Since it is the predicate for everything that has to come later.

It is also critical to gain possession of them as the first order of business. Delaying will only validate the President’s illegitimate refusal to release them in the first place. It will tend to make it a point of debate or negotiation. They should have been turned over two years ago. It is a critical first step in signaling the independent oversight power of Congress that the Republican majority abandoned when in January 2017.

Democrats should be giving a lot of thought now to just how they’ll do this, how they’ll anticipate President Trump’s inevitable attempts to throw up legal road blocks or simply defy the law. There’s no guarantee Democrats will take the House at all, with all the ill effects that would come in the wake of that failure. But now is the time to start planning.

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