Mueller could obtain Trump’s tax returns — without telling Trump

Joe Frazier Photo / Flickr grab taxes...
Joe Frazier Photo / Flickr

There’s a good chance special prosecutor Robert Mueller may go after Trump’s tax returns — without Trump even knowing about it, according to Politico:

The president and his beleaguered White House staff have given no outward sign that they have thought about the prospect yet. But in interviews, veteran federal prosecutors and legal scholars said that Mueller, who began his investigation only last week, has clear-cut authority to obtain the president’s tax returns—perhaps the most sensitive and sought-after government documents since the Pentagon Papers—from the IRS if Mueller suspects they might contain evidence of a crime.

And short of firing Mueller and shutting down his investigation, Trump—who is the first president in 40 years to refuse to make his tax returns public, despite once promising to do so— would have almost no way of stopping him. In fact, the prosecutors said, the president and his lawyers would not necessarily even know that Mueller had obtained them.

So much for Trump’s eternal “They’re under audit” bullshit.

What would Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein do?

Under the 1999 Justice Department regulations used to name Mueller, Rosenstein is, nominally, Mueller’s supervisor, which means Rosenstein could try to overturn any significant decision made by Mueller, including a decision to seek the tax returns. The regulations bar Rosenstein from “day-to-day supervision” of the special prosecutor’s investigation, though he can intervene if Mueller takes an action that is “so inappropriate or unwarranted” that it should be blocked. The language is subjective, however, and it has never been tested in detail in court. It’s unclear whether Mueller would be compelled to notify Rosenstein in advance that he was seeking Trump’s tax returns. It’s also unclear what grounds Rosenstein could use to suggest that it was improper for Mueller to obtain them.

Fun stuff.

There are reasons Trump never wanted his tax returns to see the light of day. The returns may show he is not as wealthy as he has so often claimed, a blow to his massively inflated — and desperately fragile — ego. And they may also show that he is heavily dependent on Russian banks and Russian oligarchs to keep his ship afloat.

Go get `em, Bob!

Also from the story:

A broadly worded provision of the Internal Revenue Code gives Mueller, who acts with the authority of the Justice Department in his new post, the ability to obtain the returns from the IRS if he can demonstrate to a federal judge that there is “reasonable cause to believe, based upon information believed to be reliable, that a specific criminal act has been committed” and that the returns “may be relevant” to the investigation. Under the law, there is no requirement that the subject of the investigation—in this case, Trump—even be notified of the court order to IRS. The move does not require a formal subpoena or the action of a grand jury; veteran federal prosecutors said it could all take place in a matter of hours.

The entire piece is worth a read.

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