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Political Wire logo O’Rourke Releases 10 Years of Tax Returns
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Trump Told CBP Head He Would Get a Pardon If He Broke the Law

CNN is reporting that Donald Trump once told Kevin McAleenan, then the head of Customs and Border Protection, and now the acting secretary of Homeland Security, that if he broke the law by following Trump's orders, he would be pardoned.

Needless to say, this is not how the framers of the Constitution saw the pardon power. They understood that sometimes justice could miscarry and an innocent person could be sent to prison, and the pardon power was seen as a way the president could rectify the situation. They also wanted to give the president the ability to negotiate a peaceful end to rebellions, a concern that loomed pretty large in their minds, given the events of Shays' Rebellion (which took place from 1786-87, and played a major role in rallying support for the Constitution), not to mention the rebellion that they themselves had waged against the King of England.

A DHS spokesman quickly denied the report, and Trump followed suit on Saturday:

As with the Nixon administration, this is the default position of this administration: deny, deny, deny. It was also an unwise choice. The correct thing to say was: "Please. That was a joke." Since proving or disproving intent is very difficult, that would pretty much have been the end of it. But turning it into a question of "did he actually say that?" could prove deeply problematic for a President who is up to telling 22 lies a day, in the event that one or more people heard him offer the pardon and are willing to testify to that effect.

In fact, if Trump did make a serious offer of a pardon, he would be opening himself up to all manner of serious criminal offenses. Among them would be conspiracy, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice. He would also force the Congress and the courts to take a long look at the pardon power, which he has already used in ways other than what it was meant for (see Arpaio, Joe).

Not helping the President's case is that, in his fury over the lack of "progress" at the border, he's already been pushing—or, at least, trying to push—the boundaries of the law in numerous ways. Behind the scenes, Trump has told border agents not to let migrants in, instructing those agents to tell the migrants that the country is full and there is no room for them. He also gave them instructions about what to do if a judge grants someone asylum. They are to say: "Sorry, judge. I can't do it. We don't have the room." After Trump had left, their superiors told them not to follow Trump's instructions and if they did and broke the law, they would be personally liable. If Trump really did try to "solve" this conundrum by promising pardons, it would seem to fit the model of: "When the president does it, it is not illegal." Dick Nixon found out that's not true, and Trump may be about to learn it, too.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was not happy about this report. Yesterday he told CNN's Jake Tapper: "This just shows the President's contempt for law." Let us imagine that he decides to subpoena Kevin McAleenan and ask if the offer of a pardon was made. There is no particular indication that McAleenan is a Trump loyalist, nor that he is willing to commit perjury to save the President's skin. If McAleenan says, "Yes, that offer was made, but I did not accept it," then what? Trump, as noted above, has already taken the "It was just a joke" defense off the table by insisting he never made the offer at all.

It's possible that this story goes nowhere, since there is much that remains unknown. However, it is also possible that Trump has just dug another giant hole for himself. So, this bears keeping an eye on. (V & Z)

Sanders Woos Trump Voters--by Attacking Trump

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates are following the party line, which is to talk about health care morning, noon, and night, and ignore Donald Trump. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) didn't get the memo (not entirely surprising, since he isn't a member of the Democratic Party). So, he has been traveling around Wisconsin and Michigan calling Trump "a pathological liar." He's even going to do a town hall tonight hosted by Fox News. It's a risky strategy but it could work. Sanders' argument is that it is important to talk directly to Fox viewers and tell them that Trump lied to them and misled them when he said he was on their side.

What Sanders is trying to do, more specifically, is talk directly to the blue-collar Obama-Trump voters and tell them that when they think the system is rigged against them, they are right. But Trump and other billionaires are the problem, not the solution. Sanders knows that these people are angry and he is trying to tap into that anger.

Trump seems to relish the idea of running against Sanders, whom he calls "Crazy Bernie," a name Sanders has adopted (analogous to the time when Andrew Jackson's opponents called him a "jackass," so he made the jackass the symbol of his party, which it still is). If Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, Trump will call him a socialist and his ads will probably feature Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and other people who weren't socialists but who Trump would probably cozy up to if they were alive.

Many Democrats are quaking in their boots at the thought of Sanders as their nominee. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) said: "If Sanders wins the nomination, Trump will be president again. I will guarantee it." On the other hand, there are parallels between the 2020 Democratic nomination battle and the 2016 Republican one. Back then, an angry Trump bested a field of experienced politicians and won the White House. Sanders thinks he can do the same thing. (V)

Harris Releases 15 Years of Tax Returns

In the race to release as many years of tax returns as possible, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has taken the lead. She put out 15 years' worth of them yesterday, totalling 528 pages. That's more than any other candidate for president, and is literally infinitely more than Donald Trump, who has released 0 years and is fighting very hard to keep it that way. Harris and her husband, attorney Doug Emhoff, earned $1.8 million in 2018 and paid $563,000 in federal taxes. They also donated $27,000 to charity (which is tax deductible). The average tax rate the couple has paid since they were married is about 32%.

Other candidates have also released tax returns, albeit not as many years' worth as Harris. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released 10 years' worth of returns last fall. She and her husband, Harvard Law School Professor Bruce Mann, earned $906,000 last year and paid $325,000 in federal taxes on it. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and her husband, also a law school professor, earned $292,000 last year and paid $63,000 in taxes on it. Klobuchar has released a dozen years' worth of tax returns. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earned $218,000 last year. Bernie Sanders has said he will release his tax returns today. (V)

Neal Gives Mnuchin More Time to Produce Trump's Tax Returns

While we are on the subject of tax returns, a suitable topic since today is tax day, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has responded to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's refusal to produce Donald Trump's tax return by giving him more time, specifically until April 23. Neal knows very well that Mnuchin will not produce the documents, but is giving him an extension so when Mnuchin later fights a subpoena in court, Neal can say he bent over backwards to get the returns before issuing the subpoena.

Mnuchin has said that he would definitely provide an answer to Neal's request by the deadline. Of course, the answer is going to be "no," but this little drama has to play out according to its script. He also said that it is his responsibility that the IRS does not become weaponized, as it was in the Nixon administration.

Trump has said that Neal wants his tax returns for political reasons. Of course, that is true, but Neal also wants to know if Trump could be compromised by the Russians if he owes them a huge amount of money and if he has violated the Constitution's emoluments clause. Neal has replied to Mnuchin and Trump that the law giving him the authority to see anyone's tax returns does not specify acceptable and unacceptable reasons for asking. It simply states that upon request, the secretary "shall" furnish them.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chimed in yesterday by saying Congress should not get Trump's tax returns because they are not smart enough to look through them. Trump's tax returns probably run hundreds, if not thousands, of pages and Sanders is almost certainly right, if by "smart" we really mean "knowledgeable about the finest nuances of tax law." However, Neal has lawyers working for his committee who are experts on all the details of the tax laws, and could undoubtedly analyze Trump's tax returns in detail and report back to Neal. (V)

Democrats Are Already Thinking about Super Tuesday

Traditionally, presidential candidates spend most of their time, energy, and resources in Iowa and New Hampshire, hope they catch lightning in a bottle, and then wing it from there. This cycle, not so much. Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020) is so important, with 40% of the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention chosen that day, that no candidate who plans on winning can focus on just the two (or four) early states. They need a plan for California, Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts and the other states that vote on March 3. Some have one and some don't.

Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris are already active in the Super Tuesday states. Sanders, with his millions of volunteers, is fielding an operation in every one of them. He not only has the largest number of volunteers among the candidates, he also has the most money, so he is planning to air TV ads in every Super Tuesday state. His campaign is currently in the process of hiring senior leadership in each state to manage the campaign there. Unlike Sanders' 2016 seat-of-the-pants operation, in 2020 he will have a fully professional campaign, run by John Weaver, an experienced hand who was one of John McCain's closest advisers in 2000 and again in 2008. Disgust with Donald Trump and with the cowardice of Senate Republicans who refuse to stand up to him has turned Weaver into a Democrat.

Harris is also gearing up for Super Tuesday. Her sister, Maya, is running her campaign and she already has a state director in California. She also has Ace Smith, who ran Hillary Clinton's 2008 North Carolina operation, on her staff. Meetings with top Democrats in the other Super Tuesday states are on her agenda for this month.

Harris is not the only Democrat active in North Carolina. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has family ties there (his father was from Hendersonville, NC) and is talking to senior Democrats in the Tar Heel State, where about a quarter of the population is black and nearly all of those are Democrats. Booker is also busy lining up senior campaign staff in California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin. As time goes on, both Harris and Booker are going to put a lot of effort into not only North Carolina, but also the entire South, where about half the Democratic electorate is black and where Sanders did absolutely miserably in 2016. In Mississippi, for example, Hillary Clinton beat him 82% to 17%. The South is Sanders' Achilles heel and Harris and Booker know it.

Most of the lesser-known candidates are not thinking beyond the four early states. If a candidate, like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), comes in fifth or sixth or worse in the early small states, the show is over for them. One non-candidate who isn't organizing in the Super Tuesday states is Joe Biden. He probably figures his universal name recognition will do the job for him in many states, even without a big formal operation, although he is sure to set up something in the big states eventually. He just has the luxury of not having to start from zero name recognition anywhere. (V)

See Dick Run. But Why?

While we are on the subject of running for president, a question comes to mind: Why are so many people who have virtually no chance of getting the nomination running? Yes, Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), we're looking at you. In some cases, the person running is actually running for veep. An unknown politician who does surprisingly well and is popular in some region or with some demographic group could be plucked out of obscurity to balance the ticket. But even for people who don't expect (or want) that job, there are reasons to run. Former senior aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Antonia Ferrier said: "There's just absolutely no downside and only upside."

How about some case studies? Mike Huckabee ran twice for president and lost badly both times, but he parlayed his losses into a career in television, radio, and print. Ben Carson, a famous neurosurgeon, ran for president, a job many bridges too far for him, and got himself appointed secretary of HUD (a job almost as many bridges too far for him). Rick Santorum ran terrible campaigns in 2012 and 2016 and got a gig as a political commentator on CNN. Newt Gingrich, who knows a thing or two about running for president and losing badly, once said: "They introduce you and then they say '... and former presidential candidate!' It's not bad." Rev. Al Sharpton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and got nowhere, but he said: "It opened doors. I was taken more seriously and what I represented was taken more seriously."

In short, many of the candidates don't expect to win, but there can be benefits to running and losing, including:

  • The exposure to make a run for some other office later feasible
  • An appointment to some high office in the new president's administration
  • Getting your agenda into the mainstream
  • A lucrative television gig
  • A book deal

So don't think that candidates who run even though they have no chance of winning are necessarily fools. They may have some hidden agenda that has little to do with becoming president. (V)

Gillibrand Raised $3 Million in Q1

Kirsten Gillibrand raised only $3 million in Q1 2018. That puts her in eighth place in the fundraising sweepstakes so far and not all candidates have reported yet. In most polls, she is at about 1%. In any event, it is clear that her campaign is not going anywhere yet. It could still take off, but if something doesn't happen soon, money is going to dry up and she is going to be out. (V)

Joe Manchin Invades Susan Collins' Personal Space While Endorsing Her

There has been quite a bit of discussion about space invaders of late. Joe Biden is not the only one who does it, although he seems to get most of the publicity. Consider, for example, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Manchin has endorsed Collins for reelection next year, even though he is a Democrat and she is a Republican and her seat is one of the Democrat's top targets. Here is a photo of them from last Thursday:

Joe Manchin and Susan Collins

Although there has been plenty of reaction from Democrats about the endorsement, there has been nary a word from anyone about the distance from which it was done. (V)

New Mexico Secretary of State May Run for the Senate

There is an old saying about the "best laid plans of mice and DSCC chairs" (or something like that). It means that sometimes things don't work as expected. The Democrats were overjoyed that Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) announced he would run for the seat of the retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). Now, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) is gearing up for a run, which would mean a nasty primary. It would pit Luján, a rising Latino star in the House who ran the DCCC for four years and who is currently assistant speaker of the House, against a young (42) woman who was first elected to public office at 30. That's not a situation that the Democrats like being in and could pose an identity crisis for Latinas—am I a Latino first or a woman first?

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) was thinking about making a run for Udall's seat as well, but has dropped out of the race. On the Republican side, former representative Steve Pearce, who has twice run for the Senate and lost both times and also once ran for governor and lost, is thinking of giving it a shot. New Mexico has become fairly blue and whomever the Democrats ultimately nominate is clearly favored to win the seat. (V)

Rep. Dave Loebsack Will Not Run for Reelection

Democrats' plans to hold the House in 2020 took a hit with the announcement by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) that he is tossing in the towel after seven terms in the House and will not run in 2020. Loebsack (66) has represented IA-02 since January 2007. The district covers most of Iowa's southeast quadrant. It has a PVI of D+1, which definitely makes it a swing district, especially since Loebsack won in 2016 at the same time Trump took the district by 4 points. NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said that the district is now a top pickup opportunity for the Republicans.

Possible candidates include state Sen. Zach Wahls (D), who is the child (via artificial insemination) of a marriage of two lesbian women. He gained national attention when he defended his two mothers at a 2011 hearing in the state Capitol on an amendment to the state constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage. Another potential candidate is former state Sen. Rita Hart (D), who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and lost. However, Hart may decide to run against Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in 2020 instead. It's a tougher hill to climb, but the prize is also bigger.

Several Republicans are also interested in the seat. These include Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph and state Sen. Chris Cournoyer.

Democrats will be vigorously defending IA-01 (Abby Finkenauer) and IA-03 (Cindy Axne), both of which flipped to the Democrats in 2018. The other Iowa House seat is IA-04, currently occupied by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who is persona non grata, even to House Republicans, on account of his endless stream of racist remarks. Thus, all four Iowa House seats are going to be huge battlegrounds in 2020. (V)

Monday Q&A

Immigration policy was the story of the week last week. Whether it remains so probably depends on whether or not the Attorney General follows through on his promise to release his redacted version of the Mueller report this week.

You discussed Stephen Miller's idea of sending undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities to "punish" those cities for not supporting the administration policy on immigration, but is that how such cities would see it? It seems to me such cities would welcome these people consistent with their sanctuary policies, and the notion of punishment would backfire. Even if there are criminal concerns, those could still be prosecuted, right? Is it not the case that sanctuary is not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for actual crimes, but simply relieves the undocumented of the fear of voluntarily interacting with local law enforcement by, say, reporting a crime? Also, a more straightforward question I've never quite figured out: What is Stephen Miller's title and why does he have so much influence? C.J., Lowell, MA

Generally speaking, you are right. Massive population transfers can be tough on any city, county, or state, regardless of who the new arrivals are. However, this proposal reflects the basic difference between Trump voters and non-Trump voters on immigration. Trump voters, many of whom have limited experience interacting with immigrants, tend to see such folks as "them." And these voters are encouraged to think of "them" as dangerous, and greedy, and lazy, and so forth. Non-Trump voters, many of whom interact with immigrants on a daily basis, tend to see such folks as "us." The notion that immigrants are especially likely to be dangerous, greedy, lazy, and so forth usually does not stand up for very long when one is presented with evidence to the contrary on a daily basis.

You are also correct, of course, that the authorities in "sanctuary cities" do not look the other way when an immigrant commits a legitimate crime. To believe this would be to believe that the police are harsher on citizens than on non-citizens, a notion that strains credulity.

As to Miller's title, he is Senior Advisor to the President, which is the same title Jared Kushner has. It's also similar to Ivanka Trump's title (Advisor to the President) and Steve Bannon's former title (Senior Counselor to the President). In other words, it doesn't really tell us much of anything, other than that Miller works at the White House and sometimes talks to Trump. The reason he has such influence is that he is willing to say what Trump wants to hear, on the issue Trump cares most about, and he (Miller) really believes what he is saying. The President likes that, because he cares little about whether a policy would actually work, or would be legal, or would have unintended consequences. He badly wants to believe that there are trivially simple solutions to major issues, and Miller is willing to play along with that.

What is the President thinking? Putting immigrants in sanctuary cities before the census, meaning the population of blue states will remain steady or will increase representation in the House? E.S., Lincoln, NE

In answer to this specific question, it is unlikely that there will be enough of a population surge to change representation in Congress, because each seat equates to so many people (particularly in California, where the population would need to grow by about 600,000 additional people to make a difference of one seat). Further, the administration is doing what it can to make sure those folks aren't counted in the next census anyhow, so it might take even more than that to actually make a dent. Inasmuch as the number of arrests last month was about 90,000, there just aren't enough people to reach the necessary total, even if every single one of them was bused to San Francisco or Los Angeles.

More broadly, however, the fact is that Trump cares little for the consequences of his actions, particularly if those consequences are going to be borne by someone who is not him. He is especially unlikely to take note of those consequences if they are possible, unexpected side effects of his policies. To take an example unrelated to this one, he was unconcerned about the effect of withholding aid from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (death, suffering, etc.), and he definitely did not think through the possibility that his actions would cause an exodus to the swing state of Florida.

It is not a secret that Trump thinks in this way, as his entire business career has been built upon his ability to escape the consequences of his actions. Sometimes, this was through the use of legal muscle. Sometimes, it was by looting a business and managing to leave others holding the bag. Sometimes, it was by making a "donation" to a political candidate so that they might look the other way. And sometimes, it must have been accomplished by a Trump Organization VP going behind his back and cleaning up his mess for him.

Thus far, Trump's "consequences be damned" approach really hasn't hurt him much as president. His base is still solidly with him, and congressional Republicans have not pushed back very much. Things may be changing, though, given how many times the GOP members have rebelled in the last month, not to mention the activities of House Democrats, who are much more determined to hold Trump accountable. We will see in the next 6-12 months.

The Democratic field is unusually diverse (including styles and policy positions). For the Democrat who cares more about simply having a Democrat in the White House (and Trump out of it) than they do about details of public policy, what are your thoughts on the combination of being electable and being able to beat Trump? I'm not asking for a prediction but rather if the party big shots (DNC, former presidents, big donors...) have a strategy. (When) will we have polling comparing various Democrats vs. Trump? E.F., Brussels, Belgium

It is unlikely that the DNC and the other pooh-bahs have a "strategy," per se. First, because the appearance that the DNC was in the bag for Hillary Clinton did much harm to the Party in 2016, and may have cost her the election. Second, because anyone who says they know which "kind" of candidate is the likeliest to beat Trump is selling something.

There are currently numerous theories floating around as to which kind of candidate is "most electable." One idea is that voters want the Democrat who can out-Trump Trump. If so, that would probably be Bernie Sanders, who can go toe-to-toe and punch-to-punch with the President. The Vermont Senator has the same core message as Trump (the little guy is getting screwed), though he has different ideas as to the causes of that problem and the proper solutions, of course. A second possibility is that voters want the candidate who is the most opposite of Trump. That would probably be Pete Buttigieg, who is young, a veteran, erudite, gay, eloquent, and level-headed. Trump is, to be blunt, none of those things. A third theory holds that the Party needs to go with the candidate who is "acceptable" to the largest number of voters, even if he or she doesn't particularly inspire deep devotion among any of them. That probably best describes Joe Biden, who doesn't inspire the fanaticism of a Sanders, but who also doesn't inspire the visceral, negative reaction that the Bern does with some folks. And a fourth hypothesis is that the Democrats actually do want someone with serious ideas and real policy chops, and that when all the smoke clears, the party will have unified behind that "serious" candidate. If so, that would probably be Elizabeth Warren, who is running the Hillary Clinton playbook of committing to carefully-thought-out policies that she has some chance of actually implementing.

Anyhow, there is something compelling about all of these theses, but they can't all be correct, of course. We will only know which one it is sometime around April 1 of next year. And so, to the extent the DNC is strategizing right now, it's in pursuit of the one thing that everyone can agree on: The field needs to be winnowed down. Along those lines, we suspect they will reduce the number of debate seats very rapidly, as soon as they've given everyone "a chance." It is also probable that big donors are being advised to hold off for now, and to resist keeping a non-viable candidate afloat. We don't know these things, however, we just suspect.

There has already been a fair bit of polling of Trump vs. [Democrat]. A lot of them only look at one state (usually an early primary state) or else only at one or two candidates. However, there are some that take a broader view. For example, about a week ago, PPP released a poll that has every Democrat they asked about beating Trump, with Biden beating him by 13, followed by Sanders (8), Kamala Harris (7), Beto O'Rourke (7), Warren (6), Cory Booker (7), and Pete Buttigieg (4). Of course, the standard caveats apply: It's early, some of these folks are being partly powered by name recognition, and a national preference poll does not predict the electoral vote.

Call me a pessimist, but I think Donald Trump has a very good chance of being re-elected. I see Howard Schultz being a spoiler who gets 3-5 percent of the vote. Trump's rabid base will give him 37-40 percent of the vote, the Democrat will probably get around 47 to 48 percent, but the Donald will get another 7-8 percent or so from the crowd who do not particularly like Trump but loathe Democrats, leading to yet another electoral college victory for Trump. Which brings me to my question: What odds do you give on impeachment during Trump's second term, if it comes to that? I see them as pretty high, even including a conviction in the Senate. Mitch McConnell will be 78, and this Majority leadership could be his last go round. He basically tolerates Trump, he certainly doesn't like him. So I could see him potentially pushing his party towards conviction and then rolling the dice with Pence. What do you think, plausible? C.B., Ashburn, VA

Let's start with the proposition we are least on board with. We're dubious that Schultz will actually run and that, if he does, he'll be a deciding factor. He's likely to attract votes that would otherwise have gone to Trump, not votes that would otherwise have gone to the Democrat. The sort of Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader/Jill Stein rather than vote for Al Gore/Hillary Clinton are not going to be interested in Schultz as a candidate.

Moving along, it's certainly possible that Trump wins re-election. We don't think that's the likeliest outcome, but it's far more than a non-zero chance. As to impeachment and removal, that's certainly plausible, too. However, if that does come to pass, it will surely require that something substantive against Trump be brought to light. Further, the dominant thought that will be going through McConnell's head is probably not going to be, "This is my last rodeo," and instead "None of us will ever have to appear on a ballot that also has Trump's name again, which means his power over his base is far less relevant."

What do you make of the Greg Craig indictment, in light of William Barr's statement that there would be no more Mueller indictments? I have not seen the press or politicians acknowledge this contradiction. Was Barr lying? Will there be more Mueller indictments? K.G., Seattle, WA

The general notion at the time was that no more indictments were coming from Mueller himself, or his team. There was still every chance that more indictments would be issued by others, based on his findings. So, while Barr might be guilty of some bad behavior, lying about future indictments is probably not on the list. And yes, the odds are there will be more indictments, particularly coming out of the U.S. attorney's offices for the Southern District of New York and for Washington, D.C.

Since Trump is known for lying and obfuscation in every other aspect of life, how do we know that his tax returns, when and if they become public, aren't going to be as devoid of truth as, say, William Barr's version of the Mueller Report? H.B., State College, PA

He probably did play pretty fast and loose with some things (or, at least, his accountants did). However, the IRS is pretty good at finding out about blatant falsehoods, particularly when those falsehoods are the work of (alleged) billionaires and could cost the government tens of millions of dollars. Consequently, there is significant pressure on Team Trump to be truthful about some (or many) things, particularly as regards the Trump Organization.

There is also one other dynamic here. There are a lot of things that could be problematic for Trump as a politician, but that he would have had no motivation to lie about previously. For example, think about his overall net worth. If he's not really a billionaire, it's likely he would be truthful about that when talking to the IRS (less taxes). However, it would run contrary to his image as a mega-successful businessman. Similarly, if he's done business with foreign entities, there's no reason he shouldn't be basically honest about that with the IRS. Those transactions are only problematic for him now because he's the president, and because he's insisted that they don't exist (e.g., his reported financial ties to Russia).

Up until Trump became president and occupied the White House, there was a link on the White House webpage that gave Americans some voice on issues by allowing petitions to be created and signed. Those issues that had enough interest were then publicly addressed by the president or staff. I remember that when Trump was first elected the site was taken down for some kind of "technical issues." Has this petition site gone the way of the Dodo bird, never to be seen again? T.W., Punta Gorda, FL

The administration eventually did bring that part of the White House site back; here it is. However, they do not make a point of promoting it, and they also respond to petitions if they gather 100,000 Signatures in 30 Days. Even then, the responses tend to be pretty useless. For example, when 100,000 people signed a demand for Trump's tax returns, this was the response:

Thank you for signing this We the People petition.

Please note that this petition is not within the scope of the Terms of Participation of We the People, as the President's decision regarding whether to release the tax returns does not address an action or policy of the Federal Government.

Thank you, again, for contacting the White House.

There are also a fair number of petitions that have cleared the bar for a response, but haven't yet gotten one, like "Do Not Repeal Net Neutrality" and "Divest or put in a blind trust all of the President's business and financial assets." We would not hold our breath waiting for substantive responses to either of those. In the end, the only real utility of the site for the Trump White House is as a source of ideas that might gin up the base. Which, in fairness, was probably the #1 utility for the Obama White House, as well.

If you have a question about politics, civics, history, etc. you would like us to answer, click here for submission instructions and previous Q & A's. If you spot any typos or other errors on the site that we should fix, please let us know at

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr12 Miller-initiated Policy Was a Bridge Too Far for Nielsen
Apr12 Assange Arrested; Trump "Forgets" What Wikileaks Is
Apr12 Cain Is Dead in the Water
Apr12 McConnell Pushes Back against Cuccinelli
Apr12 Even if Trump Loses, He Wins?
Apr12 Former Obama Counsel Indicted
Apr12 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Mike Gravel
Apr11 Barr: Government Spied on Trump Campaign
Apr11 Democrats Are Preparing Their Response to the Redacted Mueller Report
Apr11 Warren Raises $6 Million in Q1
Apr11 How Democrats Could Get Ahold of Trump's Taxes
Apr11 Sanders Unveils Medicare-for-All Bill
Apr11 It's Now Miller vs. Kushner
Apr11 House Passes a Net Neutrality Bill
Apr11 Benjamin Netanyahu Won a Fifth Term as Israel's Prime Minister
Apr11 Thursday Q&A
Apr10 Fight over Trump's Tax Returns Is about to Heat Up
Apr10 Undocumented Immigration Way Up
Apr10 Republicans Push Back Against Trump
Apr10 Pelosi Cancels Budget Vote
Apr10 Barr Says Mueller Report Is Coming Soon
Apr10 Gravel Enters the Democratic Presidential Race
Apr10 Israel's Next Prime Minister Is Probably Benjamin Netanyahu
Apr09 It's a Bloodbath at DHS
Apr09 Trump Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Organization
Apr09 Trump Administration Kills Baseball Deal
Apr09 Swalwell Announces Presidential Run
Apr09 Alabama Senate Race Just Keeps Getting More Crowded
Apr09 Trump and Nadler Have Been Fighting Each Other for Decades
Apr09 Israel Heads to the Polls
Apr09 India, Too
Apr08 Nielsen Meeting with Trump Becomes Nielsen Resignation
Apr08 Mulvaney Says Democrats Will Never See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr08 Nadler: Congress Has a Right to See Mueller's Report
Apr08 Nunes to Send Eight Criminal Referrals to Barr
Apr08 Polls: Voters Support Democrats on the Issues
Apr08 Democratic Candidates Are Struggling to Win Their Home States
Apr08 Top Democratic Senate Candidates Aren't Running
Apr08 Booker Raises $5 Million
Apr08 Manchin May Run for Governor in 2020
Apr08 Gardner Wants to Legalize Pot to Help His Reelection Chances
Apr08 Monday Q&A
Apr05 William Barr Is Losing the Narrative (And So, by Extension, Is Donald Trump)
Apr05 Trump's Staff Appears to Have Won the Border Battle
Apr05 Second Presidential Veto Is On Tap
Apr05 Trump Taps Herman Cain for the Fed
Apr05 Michael Cohen Has More Singing To Do, Apparently
Apr05 New Mexico Votes to Join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Apr05 Republicans Are Doing their Best to Help Doug Jones Keep His Seat
Apr05 Tim Ryan Throws His Hat into the 2020 Ring