In just days, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives as a new congressional term begins. With their new power, they have promised to conduct investigations related to President Donald Trump, which includes the possibility of seeking the president’s tax returns. Getting them, however, will be easier said than done, according to CNN legal analyst Ross Garber.
It had been tradition for presidential candidates to release these documents, but Trump bucked the trend, claiming he was under audit. House committees like the Ways and Means Committee do have the power to subpoena such documents, but as Garber noted Wednesday morning, there’s a difference between asking and receiving.
“The president controls the executive branch. He can try to prevent them from trying to get the tax returns,” Garber said.
When host John Avlon said that the Ways and Means chair has the ability to release people’s tax returns, Garber made a key correction.
“Has the ability to try to get them,” he said, “but again in terms of actually getting them, there is a potential obstacle, because the administration can resist.”
Garber’s fellow legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin pointed out that another issue is what the courts would do if Trump resisted the House’s subpoena.
“It’s worth remembering that during the Obama administration, the House of Representatives held Eric Holder in contempt at one point for failure to turn over documents, which had no effect, really,” he said.
Another issue with getting Trump’s tax returns is whether Democrats could show a non-political motive for seeking them. As University of Iowa Law Professor Andy Grewal has noted , they have to have a legitimate legislative purpose for seeking documents. If a court believes that Democrats are merely seeking to expose Trump’s personal information for the sake of exposure, they could be unsuccessful.
[Image via CNN screengrab]