Although parts of them have been released over the last few months, President Trump’s tax returns, for the most part, remain a mystery to much of the country. Trump made headlines repeatedly during his campaign for breaking with tradition by refusing to release his tax returns in their entirety, claiming that he couldn’t because he was being audited by the IRS.
Of course, that excuse has been debunked time and time again, and yet, the bulk of the returns are still under lock and key. However, they may be released soon as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s Russia ties continues. In fact, some people think that Mueller might already have Trump’s tax returns.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, posted a 23-tweet thread on Twitter explaining why he thinks Mueller has obtained some tax returns and will likely be getting his hands on Trump’s soon.
Mariotti’s thread came just after it was revealed that the FBI had searched the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. He explained that, in order for Mueller to get a search warrant, he would have had to convince a judge that there was “probable cause to believe that a federal crime was committed and evidence of that crime could be found in Manafort’s house.”
One step that prosecutors almost always take when trying to prove that a crime was committed is to obtain a suspect’s tax returns. As Mariotti noted:
‘Some federal prosecutors I worked with obtained tax returns in *every* white collar investigation they worked on. I didn’t do that, but I obtained them most of the time. They’re useful because they tell you where the person invests their money, where their bank accounts are, where they have debts, and who they’ve given money to.’
Mariotti also explained that a federal prosecutor can obtain tax returns without having to inform the suspect. They’re able to do this because of a statute in the tax code that allows prosecutors to obtain tax-related information for a non-tax investigation if they can prove that there is “reasonable cause to believe” that a criminal act took place.
With all this in mind, Mariotti said that he would be very surprised if Mueller didn’t have someone’s tax returns.
‘I would be surprised if Mueller *hadn’t* obtained some tax returns by now. The question is just whose tax returns he has.’
In his tweets, Mariotti said that Mueller likely has obtained tax returns as part of his investigation, but he didn’t specify whether or not the special counsel has the president’s returns. He wrote an op-ed for The Hill a few days later emphasizing the fact that, since Mueller has already broadened his investigation to include some of Trump’s business interests, he could have also requested a copy of Trump’s returns.
‘Does Mueller have the president’s tax returns? There is not enough public information for us to know. Public reports of subpoenas relating to Trump Organization financial records could suggest that Mueller may have sought tax return information of those business entities, if not the president himself. Given how broad the statute is, Mueller could seek the president’s tax returns even if he is not investigating the president.’
The jury’s still out on whether or not Mueller already has Trump’s returns. However, those who responded to Mariotti’s Twitter thread are hoping that, if he doesn’t have them yet, he will soon.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images.