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Mueller Report and Tax Returns

I want to focus on two issues that seem to be dominating the news as it applies to President Trump. The first is the Mueller Report which will probably be delivered to the Congress this week and the second deals with the President’s tax returns. 

THE MUELLER REPORT

The Attorney General, Robert Barr, has indicated that he will deliver to Congress the entire Mueller Report this week.  There will, by necessity, be redactions.  Those redactions will include items from Grand Jury testimony and also items that affect intelligence sources and national security.  These are items that have to be redacted either by law or to prevent harm to our intelligence gathering mechanisms.

But will that satisfy Congressional Democrats and those shilling for them in the media?  Absolutely not.  We all remember when they adamantly defended Bob Mueller and said that we had to allow his team to finish their investigation and submit that report to the Attorney General.  They were convinced that the Special Prosecutor and his team would conclude that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests. Any attempts to either delay the Mueller team or even end the investigation were to be halted and they went as far as introducing legislation to ensure that the Mueller team was protected. All of this was done because of their strong belief in what they felt it would produce.

Throughout all of this Trump, in typical Trump bombastic style, denounced that investigation and said there was nothing there.  He made unwise comments about Mueller and this team and went so far as to say he thought Mueller should be fired.  I suspect a lot of this rash talk was born from frustration by the constant drum beat by the media that there was collusion between the campaign and Russians. But even Republicans on Capitol Hill rebuffed such talk and made it plain that would be an unwise decision, and, in the end, Trump backed off and Mueller and his team were allowed to go about their investigation unfettered and complete a report to submit to the Attorney General.   

We have not seen the full report yet but the synopsis of it by the Attorney General made it clear that the Mueller team did not find evidence of collusion.  This had the effect of sucking the air out of the room for those Democrats like Adam Schiff who insisted that he personally had evidence of collusion.  Of course, he has yet to provide the evidence but being like most politicians they never let the facts get in the way of a political argument.  

What we are told the Mueller Report did say was on the issue of obstructionism they could not come to a decision and left that up to the Justice Department to decide if what they found rose to the level of being criminal.  In the synopsis by the Attorney General they concluded that it did not rise to that level.  The Democrats have seized on this issue with most of them concluding that the collusion argument was going to fall flat with the public and now claim the President should be prosecuted for obstruction.  Their basis on this point are the statements made by Trump that he had the power to fire Bob Mueller and end this investigation but when the smoke had cleared, he did not.  To find this as obstruction you would have to believe that his comments somehow deterred Bob Mueller and his team from conducting a full and thorough investigation. If it had, we would have heard about by now from either Mueller himself or members of his team.  You have to remember that the bulk of his team were identified as Democrats with many of the contributing to the Clinton campaign. But we have not.  I also strongly believe that if Attorney General Barr had misled the Congress and the public with his synopsis, we would have heard someone speak out by now.  But all we hear are Democrats now attacking both Barr and Muller and demanding to see the full unredacted report so they can pick it apart and used bits and pieces for political gain.

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has criticized the report and suggested that Barr has whitewashed it and he and the Judiciary Committee should see it in its unredacted version.  They will want to know why the Mueller team and Barr have not disclosed information that they were considering during the investigation that might have led to an indictment.  This is the same Jerry Nadler that opposed the release of confidential information in the Clinton email investigation because it would harm people that were not being indicted.  This is the same Jerry Nadler that said it was not the job of a prosecutor to show evidence of why Ms. Clinton may have been indicted but to either indict or not indict period.  It seems he has changed his mind on this political investigation.

When we see the redacted report this week there will be two main points.  First, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, and second, whatever things that were considered by the team based on Trump’s words or actions, did not rise to the level of a criminal charge of obstruction.   Had Trump actually fired Mueller it would an entirely different discussion.

TAX RETURNS

We now have a major focus on President Trump’s personal tax returns.  For some reason it has become traditional for Presidential candidates to release their tax returns so that everyone can ogle them.  I am not sure why we want to see them other than to satisfy our own curiosity.  I personally don’t think anyone should share their personal income tax statements. Members of Congress don’t share their own tax returns.  They do file financial disclosure forms which give us a general understanding of their personal wealth, but the categories are fairly broad.  My wife worked in the U.S. Senate and as someone that was paid at a rate above a certain threshold, she had to file similar financial disclosure forms. Those forms also had to disclose my income and any investments I made.  I can tell you they are onerous and subject to repeated amending to comply with the rules.

I suspect there are two major reasons why Trump will not release his tax returns.  First, it may show that he is not a wealthy as he suggests he might be.  He is a New York City developer and as such is prone to making statements that would appear to make him richer than he is in order to secure projects.  The second reason is more pertinent.  As a developer of major projects those tax returns would be voluminous.  Like any developer there will be years where the profits are thin and years where they are much bigger.  There will be deductions taken, as with all developers, that are legal under the tax code, but political fodder could be made with them.  Nancy Pelosi’s husband is a developer and has made them both very wealthy.  I am sure that his returns would create the same type of deductions and would show that he took full advantage of the tax code.  Speaker Pelosi has been asked this question and her reply has been: “I will release my tax returns when I run for President.”  Of course, she has no plans to run so this is a hollow statement.   And to be consistent, I don’t think she and her husband should have their tax returns in the public domain for political opponents to pick apart.  But similarly, she should acknowledge that it is Trump’s right to keep his private.

Trump has created a unique situation on the issue of tax returns.  In recent history those that have run for President have not been wealthy businessmen.  Most have spent their lives in politics and so their returns are pretty cut and dried. They are not going to be thousands of pages long.  

I have offered a solution on this issue and Alan Dershowitz, esteemed Harvard Professor of Law and a Democrat, offered another solution.  

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The Democrats have argued that they need to see the returns to ensure that the IRS is treating the President’s returns consistently with the law.  They are suggesting that he is getting preferential treatment and therefore they have to examine them.  This is really a callous affront to the professionals at the IRS who are supposed to be non-political (Democrats told us that when the investigation of tax status for non-profits was being investigated and Lois Lerner to the fifth amendment before Congress on her actions).  I would suggest that Chairman Neal be allowed to go to the IRS and in a secure room be allowed to view the returns.  No notes are to be taken and no recording devices allowed.  The IRS professional charged with reviewing the Trump returns would sit with him and answer any questions he might have about deductions taken and their legality.  In order to allow this privilege, he would have to sign an agreement not to leak or disclose any of the private information he viewed.  Since he would be the only one viewing the information, he would agree that if such leaks appeared, he would resign from Congress.

Professor Dershowitz has offered a solution along the same lines but different.  He has suggested that the media be invited to sit down with the tax professionals that prepared the Trump tax returns.  They could review the returns and ask any questions about why they took that deduction and how it fit within the law.  I would amend that suggestion by also having the IRS professional there to explain why they allowed or disallowed a deduction.

We have to remember that Trump did not prepare his own returns nor was he capable.  He has a major accounting firm complete this task. Trump has said that according to his tax professionals he took every deduction that was legal and paid the minimum amount of taxes he legally was required to pay.  I want anyone who is critical of this to show me that they paid more in taxes than they were required.  

My final comment on this subject is simple.  Does anyone really believe Mr. Neal when he makes that ludicrous statement about wanting to ensure the IRS is doing its job correctly?  He wants those returns for one reason and one reason only, to be able to pick it apart for some political attack.  Period.

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