Editor's Brief

Your TPM Guide To Subpoenaing the President’s Tax Returns

Protesters carry placards during a rally and march in downtown Denver Saturday, April 15, 2017. The rally in Denver was one of dozens in cities nationwide to call on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, saying Americans deserve to know about his business ties and potential conflicts of interest. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Protesters carry placards during a rally and march in downtown Denver Saturday, April 15, 2017. The rally in Denver was one of dozens in cities nationwide to call on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns,... Protesters carry placards during a rally and march in downtown Denver Saturday, April 15, 2017. The rally in Denver was one of dozens in cities nationwide to call on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, saying Americans deserve to know about his business ties and potential conflicts of interest. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) MORE LESS
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July 6, 2018 2:03 p.m.

Over time, Donald Trump’s tax returns have been something like the great white whale of those obsessed with freeing the United States from the scourge of Trump Era corruption: critical, singular and yet seemingly permanently out of reach. The country has been collectively asking for them for more than two years. But President Trump seems to have simply gotten away with keeping secret the financial information without which it’s basically impossible to know whether he is using the presidency as a family profit center or committing more specific offenses like violating the emoluments clause of the constitution. It is also worth noting that we’re no longer just talking about the 2015 returns that were at issue during the campaign but the 2016 and 2017 returns as well.

As I’ve explained, however, the President’s tax returns are very much on the ballot this November. If the Democrats take over the House of Representatives they can and I suspect will subpoena the President’s tax returns and get them. Nor is this simply a matter of partisan score-settling. There is simply no way to conduct meaningful oversight of a President who insists on continued ownership of his private businesses without this information. So with that, here is how this can actually happen, the specific laws and House rules which would allow members of a future Democratic majority to get hold of the President’s returns.

The details of how it would happen are interesting and significant.

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