Clinton 232
image description
Trump 306
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 47
image description
GOP 53
image description
  • Strongly Dem (182)
  • Likely Dem (27)
  • Barely Dem (24)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (90)
  • Likely GOP (45)
  • Strongly GOP (170)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2016: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
Political Wire logo Trump’s Pick Called Himself Opponent of World Bank
Life Inside Trump’s Justice Department
How McConnell Locked Trump In on Funding Bill
Inside Trump’s Attempt to Claim Victory
Maduro Reveals Secret Meetings with U.S.
Trump’s Emergency Declaration Will Face Many Lawsuits

Bloomberg Will Spend $500 Million Trying to Defeat Trump in 2020

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not like Donald Trump. He really doesn't. He is preparing to put his money where his mouth is. And with nearly $50 billion in assets, he has a very big mouth. Politico is reporting that $500 million is the floor, not the ceiling, for what he plans to spend in the presidential race. In the unlikely event that the Democrats pick him as their nominee, he will spend it on his own campaign. If not, he will run his own data-heavy political operation, the size of which is unprecedented. To get an idea of how big this is, the entire 2016 Trump campaign spent $325 million. Compared to Bloomberg, the Koch brothers are pikers, having spent a piddling $122 million all in all in 2012.

Bloomberg is 76, knows you can't take it with you, and really despises Trump, so there is every reason to believe he means it and won't get cold feet later on. Besides, it's only 1% of his assets and $500 million means as little to him as $100 does to a person with $10,000 in the bank. Actually, it probably means less to him, since a person with $10,000 may need that money for food or rent at some point. Bloomberg can blow the entire $500 million without ever worrying about food or shelter.

Unlike possible independent candidate Howard Schultz, Bloomberg has already won three elections in a very diverse city, so he knows a thing or two about running a campaign. And as a starting point, he has already assembled a political team headquartered in Manhattan. They are working on two strategies in parallel. In Plan A, Bloomberg is the Democratic nominee and the goal is for him to personally defeat Trump. In Plan B, someone else is the Democratic nominee and Bloomberg will provide outside support. Federal law prohibits super PACs from coordinating with candidates, so Bloomberg will run his own operation, but given his personal political experience and long-time focus on data-heavy operations, he is going to be running polls continuously on every possible angle, especially in the swing states. It is likely that if he really carries this off, he will know more about the electorate and the state of the campaign than either of the candidates or the national parties.

Democrats may at first like the idea of having a friendly sugar daddy who can swamp Trump financially and who also has a lot more campaign savvy than he does. But, as is often the case, be careful what you wish for. The next time around, the billion-dollar sugar daddy who plans to buy the election might be a Republican. (V)

Judge Throws the Book at Manafort

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort struck a plea bargain with special counsel Robert Mueller, agreeing to spill his guts in exchange for a much lighter sentence. Then, when it came time for him to deliver on his part of the bargain, Manafort lied repeatedly to Mueller. The special counsel knows this, and can prove it. Judge Amy Berman Jackson examined the evidence, and agrees that Manafort knowingly and deliberately lied. And so, she voided the plea deal.

This story raises two very obvious questions. The first is: How could Manafort be so stupid? Actually, this also applies to many others in Donald Trump's orbit, as well. Manafort, and Michael Cohen, and Roger Stone, and even several members of the Trump family have spent the last several decades playing fast and loose with the law. Clearly, that worked well for them. However, they are now up against the world's mightiest law enforcement apparatus, one with nearly unlimited manpower and funding. This is the major leagues of criminality, the folks who brought down Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, the Unabomber, John Gotti, and Timothy McVeigh. And yet, only Michael Flynn seems to have grasped he was in over his head, and played his hand accordingly. The others simply don't seem to appreciate how much trouble they could be in for, particularly if they insist on playing games.

The second question is: Whom or what is Manafort protecting? There was absolutely no personal benefit to him in lying. If he had been cooperative and truthful, he would have secured the shortest possible sentence for himself. By lying, however, he has given himself the worst of both worlds. The guilty pleas he made as part of the plea bargain still stand, but Mueller is no longer obliged to lobby for a reduced punishment. So, Manafort's lies could only have been for the benefit of someone else. And there are really only two plausible explanations here. Either he was lying to protect one or more Russians who might otherwise see to it that he gets a little polonium with his coffee, or he was lying to protect someone (or the family of someone) who might just grant him a pardon.

Whatever the explanation is, it adds up to a grim future for Manafort. If he's trying to save his neck from the Russians, committing to a life behind bars is not exactly a fun way to do that. And if he thinks a pardon is coming, well, as we have frequently noted, he's likely to get popped for unpardonable state crimes. In any event, the odds are good that Manafort—who is 69, and in frail health—will never be a free man again. (Z)

Klobuchar Raised $1 Million in First 48 Hours

Anyone who is thinking that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) doesn't have much of a chance against so many better-known presidential candidates might want to think again. The Senator raised over $1 million in the first 48 hours after her announcement in the middle of a snowstorm. She received a donation from every state in the U.S. in the first 20 minutes after her announcement. Getting grassroots money is crucial to her campaign since she, like many other Democratic candidates, has said she will refuse contributions from corporate PACs.

Klobuchar is not the only Democrat to be big in small donations. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is generally better known than Klobuchar, took in $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after her announcement. Harris said that her average donation was $37.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has the unenviable task of deciding which Democrats get to be on the big stage when the debates start in June. He hasn't released the exact algorithm yet, but has indicated that how much money candidates have received in small donations will be part of the equation. So it is very likely that Klobuchar, like Harris, will be up there. (V)

Trump's Approval Is Way Up after Government Reopened

During the government shutdown, Donald Trump's approval took a nosedive, but now that the government has reopened (as a result of his caving to Speaker Nancy Pelosi), it has shot up again. The Gallup poll released yesterday shows Trump's approval now at 44%, up from 37% in mid-January. The improvement came largely from independents, who now approve of the President more than they did last month. They are a fickle group whose love can be gained or lost in a moment by a single action or tidbit of news. Democrats and Republicans, however, are not budging. Only 5% of Democrats approve of Trump while 89% of Republicans think he is doing a good job. (V)

Cohen Will Testify before Three Congressional Committees

Former Trump fixer and current felon Michael Cohen is going to testify before two House and one Senate committee before entering prison. Cohen knows that being in prison does not exempt one from a congressional subpoena, it merely means you get a team of U.S. marshals as an escort. He was supposed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week but didn't show up, claiming he was recovering from surgery and was thus unavailable. When the Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), saw reports of him eating out on Saturday with five buddies and having a wild time, Burr was livid, which is probably not going to put Burr in a friendly mood when Cohen finally arrives. In fact, the Senator said that any goodwill that might have existed is now gone.

Two House chairmen, Elijah Cummings (Government Oversight), and Adam Schiff (Intelligence) also have a few questions for Cohen. Cummings wants him to testify in public. The other two will be closed hearings. Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress on a previous occasion, which is going to make the members of Congress very careful about the questions and will cause them to listen carefully to the answers. Cohen's lawyer has said that his client will not answer questions about the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but it is not clear what that means or how Congress will react to "I don''t want to talk about that." Probably not very well, actually. (V)

McCarthy Blames Freedom Caucus for Loss of House Majority

Whenever a political party loses an election badly, the leaders naturally look for a scapegoat to blame. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) seems to have found his. Speaking privately to donors, he blamed the House Freedom Caucus for pushing the GOP hard to roll back insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This led to the Democrats' pushing hard to preserve them and, surprise, the voters preferred keeping the protections in place to losing them. Who knew?

Now that the Washington Post has discovered and published McCarthy's remarks, the old feud between the House Republican leadership and the Freedom Caucus has flared up again.

McCarthy told the donors that it was health care that doomed the party. According to him, Republicans were more popular on immigration, the economy, and social issues, but were wiped out on health care by 66 points. Other polls have provided very different results, but McCarthy needed to explain the loss to donors who had shelled out a lot of money to ensure a Republican win and didn't get what they paid for. He was never fond of the Freedom Caucus, so he leveled both barrels at them. Now it doesn't matter, because a 198-seat minority has exactly the same power in the House as a 168-seat minority, namely zero, so McCarthy doesn't care what the Freedom Caucus thinks of him. (V)

House Democrats Are Planning a Vast Probe of Trump's Russian Connections

No one doubts that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is planning to look at Russia's interference with the 2016 election. But yesterday it became clear that House probes are going to go way beyond that. At a round table for national reporters, an unnamed House Democrat said there will be a comprehensive probe of Russia and Trump, specifically including possible money laundering. Schiff will take the lead, but will be assisted by the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). Furthermore, they are not going to wait for Robert Mueller to issue a report. They are going to start right now.

Issues that are certain to be contentious are Trump's business and his finances. Long ago Trump said that if Mueller went down that road, he would be crossing a red line and would be fired. Schiff and Waters are making a beeline for that road and they can't be fired. All three chairs have subpoena power and are planning on using it extensively. Waters, who has been on the Financial Services Committee for 28 years, has a keen interest in Trump's dealings with Deutsche Bank and whether he has been involved in money laundering. Engel's interest is naturally on foreign affairs, so he wants to know why Trump is so friendly to Russia, a country full of godless commies that the Republican Party has hated for 100 years. He especially wants to know whether Trump's interest in making hundreds of millions of dollars by building Trump Tower Moscow has been driving American foreign policy. Engel is also curious about why Trump seems so friendly with Saudi Arabia, a nominal ally, but in practice a country run by a ruthless dictator, Mohammad Bin Salman. In short, these three committee chairs are going to cause Trump massive headaches for months to come (and maybe into 2020) by holding public hearings and issuing subpoenas right and left. And other committee chairmen (e.g., Elijah Cummings) are probably going to want some of the action as well. (V)

Nate Silver Says O'Rourke Has the Best Chance--at the Veep Slot

Nate Silver of says the most likely 2020 Democratic veep is Beto O'Rourke. His reasoning is thus: The betting sites are saying that most likely (55% chance) the Democratic presidential nominee will be a woman or a minority rather than a white man. If that is true, the candidate is surely going to want to balance the ticket with a white man, as a woman and a black man or two women or two minorities would be rubbing salt in the wounds of the angry Midwestern men who see their political power slipping away. That would be political suicide, so the presidential candidate would be pretty much forced to pick a white man.

Veeps are generally potential presidents in waiting, so that pretty much rules out all the old guys (Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, and others). Looking at the pool of young white men, O'Rourke is one of the very few white candidates who is young enough (46) that waiting 8 years in a job not worth a bucket of warm piss is probably worth it. This is especially true if he can make a deal with the presidential candidate to give him something to do for 4 or 8 years other than going to the funerals of foreign leaders. (V)

Might Mexico Pay for the Wall after All?

Sen. Ted Cruz has a novel idea for getting Mexico to pay for Donald Trump's wall: seize the property of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, who was recently convicted on 10 counts related to drug smuggling. His property is estimated to be worth $14 billion:

That might build half of the wall. But there are a few problems with this scheme. First, is that fines and civil asset forfeitures don't go into a slush fund to be used at the president's discretion. They go to the Treasury, and in order for that money to be used for some specific purpose, Congress has to pass an appropriations bill. That's not going to happen because the House will never approve such a bill. On top of that, legal experts agree that it's the Mexican government that is entitled to seize Guzmán's assets, not the United States government. And even if those two issues were somehow overcome, Guzman himself is unlikely to help the feds find all his assets, even though the government is going to give him free room and board for the rest of his life in beautiful Colorado. His new accommodations won't be what he was used to, but they do have a rating on Google of 3.3. In other words: Nice try, Ted, but no cigar. (V)

Thursday Q&A

Back to a variety, as the big stories of the last few weeks (Virginia, shutdown) are currently on the back burner, at least for a short while.

Since we know the majority leader currently controls the floor of the Senate, and (thanks to your Q&As) that the majority leader position was only created in the 20th Century—how did the Senate run before there were majority and minority leaders and whips? Was that process better/fairer/more inclusive of the minority party? D.M., Denver, CO

In the 19th century, the Senate had a number of towering members who, while not "official" leaders in the way that we have today, essentially ruled the upper chamber by force of their personality and their fame. That list includes Daniel Webster (F/NR/W-MA), John C. Calhoun (DR/D-SC), Henry Clay (DR/NR/W-KY), Thomas Hart Benton (D-MO), Stephen A. Douglas (D-IL), and John Sherman (R-OH). Whenever fellows like that were not leading the way, for whatever reason, it usually fell to the chairs of the important committees to set the agenda.

It is somewhat difficult to say if this was "fairer" to the minority party because the strongly polarized two-party situation that exists today did not start to emerge until the 1920s or so (when, not so coincidentally, the formal leadership positions emerged). Prior to 1830, the parties were fairly weak and—for a portion of that time—there was only one of them. From the 1830s to the 1870s or so, senators had many competing loyalties that didn't lend themselves to a clean two-way cleavage. While Democrat vs. Whig, and later Democrat vs. Republican, was important, North vs. South was equally (or possibly more) important, and East vs. West was also an underlying dynamic. Depending on the issue, a Democratic senator from, say, Pennsylvania might find common cause more easily with a Southern Whig than with a Democratic senator from, say, Iowa.

Then, from the 1870s to the 1920s, there were liberal and conservative factions in both parties, with the result that neither party was all that cohesive in that time. During the election of 1896, for example, Democratic president Grover Cleveland made no secret of the fact that he liked conservative Republican William McKinley more than populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan. In 1912, to take another example, sitting Republican president William Howard Taft stayed in a race he knew he could not win, and he did so in part because he preferred that Democrat Woodrow Wilson take the White House over Republican/Progressive Theodore Roosevelt.

What is definitely the case, however, is that Senators of the 19th century generally took very seriously their responsibility as a deliberative body and one founded on respectful debate. It's true that, on occasion, an unruly Congressman made his way into the Senate chamber and beat the crap out of a senator, but in general, any member could expect his views to be respectfully heard, if he wished it. That's not so much a procedural or structural issue, however, as it is a cultural one.

Donald Trump claims he won the 2016 election because he took three states that were assumed to be Hillary Clinton blue states. My question is this: If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had not run for President, would Clinton have won those states? J.M., San Jose, CA

The easy part of the answer is this: The three states were Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which Trump won by a combined total of 107,330 votes.

Now on to the tough part. Since Sanders was not on the ballot in the general election (and writing his name in was possible only in Pennsylvania, among the three states), he could not really take votes from Clinton directly. If we want to "blame" him, we would have to imagine that his primary voters punished Clinton by voting third-party, or not voting at all, more than GOP primary voters punished Trump. It's hard to measure that numerically, but let's give it a try. Here's a table comparing each candidate's vote total in the primaries to the general election:

State Trump Primary Trump General Trump Increase Clinton Primary Clinton General Clinton Increase
Michigan 483,751 2,279,543 371% 576,795 2,268,839 293%
Wisconsin 386,370 1,405,284 263% 432,767 1,382,536 219%
Pennsylvania 892,702 2,970,733 232% 918,689 2,926,441 218%

As you can see, Trump improved by a larger margin than Clinton did in all three states. On average, his vote total increased by close to 290%, while hers increased by a little more than 240%. He clearly unified the GOP and/or got them out to vote more effectively than Clinton did for the Democrats. If she could have nudged that up by just 5%, she would have won the election. There are several possible explanations for this, and one of them is that there were more unhappy Democrats than Republicans who stayed home or voted third party on Election Day. So, is it possible, and maybe even probable, that Sanders cost her that bump, and thus the election? Yes, it is.

The one-term governorship, which the Northam scandal highlighted, sounds odd to me. What is the advantage to a state for such a term limit? R.K.P., Chicago, IL

There are, in theory, two big advantages. The first is that a one-term governor (or president, or whatever) hits the ground running and tries to get things done quickly, because they know their time is short. The other is that there is allegedly not enough time for them to become entrenched/corrupted/beholden to special interests.

Of course, as we have pointed out, term limits also carry some very obvious disadvantages. The first is that it takes time to learn how to be governor, particularly of a major state like Virginia. This system means that for some significant percentage of the time, a rookie is calling the shots. A second is that someone who is of necessity a short-timer may spend much of their time and energy (and possibly other resources) setting themselves up for their next gig. And a third very big one is that someone who is limited to one term is necessarily a lame duck for their entire time in office. That means they are less responsive to voters, and yet also that they have less influence over the bureaucracy and other officeholders, who can always just dig in and wait for the next guy or gal, if need be.

In short, it is hard to see how the benefits outweigh the tradeoffs.

It seems like the President's approval rating ebbs and flows within a very historically narrow range (never really going below 36%, never really rising above 42%). Are the same people moving him up and down within this range? Can we infer from the polling data that ~6% of the country is just incredibly fickle about the President and flips back and forth on their approval? Or is this just statistical noise inherent in taking many polls? It doesn't particularly seem like there are many events that would move people between columns so I'm wondering what type of person approves of the President on Monday, is dissatisfied by Wednesday, and back on the train by the weekend. V.K., Washington, DC

There is no way to be certain unless someone does a tracking poll. Those tend to be expensive, and thus fairly rare, though USC/Dornsife does them in election years. Anyhow, absent that sort of data, we are left to hazard our best guess. And we would say you largely have the right of it, in that a lot of this is statistical noise, either in the form of fluctuations within the margin of error, or minor changes in methodology that produce slightly different results (for example, "Is Donald Trump doing a good job?' will result in numbers that are a little bit different from "Would you say Donald Trump is doing a good job?").

Beyond that, however, let us assume that about 10% of the voting public is actually "in play," and is open to changing their minds. If one third of them flipped their opinions each month, then that could easily be enough to account for much of the variance, even though each of them would only be changing positions once every three months. Consider a situation where 50% of Americans disapprove (D), 35% approve (A), 5% have no opinion, and the other 10% shift around like this:

October: D D D D D D D D A A (giving us 58% disapprove, 37% approve)
November: D D D D D A A A A A (giving us 55% disapprove, 40% approve)
December: D D A A A A A A A D (giving us 53% disapprove, 41% approve)
January: A A A A A A A A D D (giving us 52% disapprove, 42% approve)

As per our hypothetical, each of these only changed opinions once between October and January, and yet it was enough to move the needle five points in Trump's favor.

I have heard a lot about single-payer healthcare, or Medicare for all, but the issue is always about where the funding comes from. On my W-2 tax statement the DD entry shows the amount of money my employer plays for my health care, which in my case is $20,000. I have estimated that our family's additional cost of monthly payments, deductibles, and other expenses comes to about $10,000. So for just my family alone there is $30,000 that we could pay into that system and we would not be paying anything extra. Has someone ever looked at that as a source of income for that system? Do we know what the total amount is that companies pay for healthcare? It just seems like we are spending more today then we would in a Medicare for all system if we look at all the ways people are paying. B.M., Steep Falls, ME

Let's start with a disclaimer: The Heritage Foundation disagrees with pretty much everything in this answer.

With that out of the way, outside of the Heritage Foundation folks, the Ayn Rand crowd (admittedly, there's a lot of overlap between the two), and a few others, there is a broad consensus, based in both theory and in the practical experience of other nations, that some form of single-payer healthcare will actually pay for itself, and may even result in a net savings.

You have already identified half of the reason that is true. The federal government, employers, and private citizens already pay enormous amounts of money into the system. Those subsidies, contributions, deductibles, etc. would form a giant pile of money that would be the starting point for paying the bills of a single-payer system.

The other half of the equation, meanwhile, is that single-payer would reduce costs in several ways. In government-run healthcare systems, the administrative overhead is far, far less, largely because there is no need for an extensive "pay this claim, but reject that one" bureaucracy. To be specific, it is expected that a single-payer system would reduce administrative costs by about 85%. Further, a government-run system does not need to purchase advertising, which accounts for 10-15% of the annual budget of most private insurers. And most importantly, large government entities can negotiate more favorable terms with service providers and drug companies, which in some cases can reduce costs as much as two-thirds. And this isn't just a matter of the big, bad government sticking it to the little guy. Hospitals that have to spend less time and money on paperwork, doctors that have to spend less time filling out claims forms, pharmaceutical companies that don't have to employ an army of sales reps, etc. can recognize significant cost savings and pass those on without undue suffering.

This is not to say that single-payer does not have its downsides. However, someone who uses the high costs as their main argument probably fits into one of these three categories: (1) They don't really know the numbers, or (2) They are in the thrall of lobbyists, or (3) They are just about to reread Atlas Shrugged for the 12th time.

It would seem many Republicans are loyal to President Trump simply because he has the power of the executive branch. However, I would guess there are many Republicans looking in the mirror and thinking about a personal job promotion to Commander in Chief in 2020. As you have noted many times, President Nixon's fall from power happened quickly once the tides of opinion changed to a breaking point. Considering there are many investigations taking place into unknown depths, what is the "realistic" time table for Republican individuals to challenge President Trump for the 2020 nomination? In respect to your crystal ball of the future, who do you think would be in the strongest position to pick up the pieces of a shattered Republican Party that has lost its demigod? W.F., Blairs Mills, PA

Get ready for a crude metaphor (in the sense that it's rough, not that it's vulgar). Imagine that you're running the 100-yard dash against ten other competitors, and you let them get to the 50-yard marker before you leave the starting gate. You can't win, right? Well, that's a pretty good description of the Democratic field this year, and why we keep writing that the Democratic candidates better get to it soon if they hope to have a chance at the big prize.

Now imagine the same race with only one runner. And, while that runner is dashing, probably at a leisurely pace that involves a lot of executive time, he suffers a broken leg, or a heart attack, or is struck by lightning. In that case, it does not matter how late the second runner leaves the gate, as long as he or she is allowed to take the field. This is a pretty good description of the GOP horse race this year. And what we're saying is that, if Trump were to collapse in some way, a white knight could enter very late in the process and still have a puncher's chance. In fact, we think that it could even be as late as a few weeks before the national convention. After all, we know full well that 40% of the country is going to check the name with an (R) next to it, even if they're caught in bed with a live boy and a dead girl while wearing blackface. So, the campaign is really only about landing that last 10% or so.

As to identifying a possible replacement standard-bearer, we operate from the following three assumptions:

  • Anyone who is a member of Trump's administration (Mike Pence, etc.) or who kowtowed to him (Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, etc.) will be toxic
  • Anyone who practices Trump's style of politics (Mark Meadows, Steve King, Kris Kobach) will be toxic
  • Americans have already had a chance to buy what folks like Mitt Romney and John Kasich were selling, and weren't interested

In short, we are looking for someone who has no connection to Trump, is dissimilar from him in style, hasn't run a failed national campaign before, and yet has a plausible case for electability. In trying to lead the GOP out of the Trumpian wilderness, it would be particularly helpful if this person has a reputation for integrity (since Trump would presumably have been done in by corruption) and for being a uniter, not a divider. This is a bit out of left field, but the person who seems to check all of these boxes is...Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA). He wins elections in deep blue Massachusetts by landslides, and he has had the highest approval rating of any governor in America (72% right now) for eight straight quarters. He is also, by his nature and his public declaration, the anti-Trump.

It is unlikely that the GOP would ever turn to Baker (though they did nominate another former Massachusetts governor in Romney, so you never know). A runner-up possibility, and a much more probable choice if a white knight is needed, is Nikki Haley. It's true that she was a member of the administration, but she jumped ship before things really went downhill. She can claim she was in New York for most of her tenure, and so had nothing to do with whatever was going on in D.C., and she can also say she knew something was rotten and so that is why she did the honorable thing and quit. We don't think she would actually be as electable as Baker, but she's definitely more likely to be tapped than he is.

Is there any conceivable way that the House will fail to get ahold of Donald Trump's tax returns? Could the courts rule that the relevant provision of law authorizing Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) to request tax returns doesn't apply to the President's returns? Z.H., Karachi, Pakistan

From a legal perspective, the answer is surely "no." The law is unambiguous on this point, and all Trump can really do is claim that he's entitled to special consideration by virtue of his office. The problem is that executive privilege doesn't apply here, because his tax returns are not work product, they are from his life as a private citizen. And any other argument about national security, or privacy rights, or whatever his attorneys cook up, is going to run into the fact that presidents have been sharing their tax returns for 50 years. The first thing any judge is going to ask is: What about the Obamas? And the Bushes? And the Clintons? And the other Bushes? And the Reagans? Why were all of them able to release their returns while you can't?

Trump's only hope, then, is to tie this up in the courts for so long that his ultimate loss becomes irrelevant, presumably because it happens after he's resigned/been defeated/been reelected. That strategy worked great when he was a private developer looking to make headaches for government agencies and less-well-heeled business partners. It's not likely to work so well here.

It's also worth noting that Bob Mueller surely already has the returns. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York probably has them, too. So, if there is evidence of wrongdoing in them (say, money laundering), then that ship has already sailed.

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

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb13 WWDD: What Will Donald Do?
Feb13 Senate Channels Its Inner Roosevelt
Feb13 McConnell to Bring "Green New Deal" Up for a Vote
Feb13 Barr Is in the Clear
Feb13 Mark Kelly Is In
Feb13 Will Another Amy Run?
Feb13 Today in Terrible Analysis
Feb13 Booker Wants a Woman
Feb12 Let's Make a Deal
Feb12 GOP Could Get Burned By Tax Cut
Feb12 Trump, Senate Republicans Spar Over Khashoggi
Feb12 Klobuchar's Abusive Treatment of Staff Has Been Going on for Years
Feb12 A 2020 Preview?
Feb12 Cohen Postpones Again
Feb12 John Dingell Bids Farewell
Feb11 Shutdown Talks Have Deadlocked
Feb11 Poll: Virginians Split on Northam
Feb11 Schiff and Waters Will Work Together Investigating Deutsche Bank
Feb11 Democrats Are Already Digging for Dirt
Feb11 Klobuchar Is Running
Feb11 Warren Makes It Official
Feb11 Harrison Is Also Running
Feb11 Rep. Walter Jones Dies
Feb11 Monday Q&A
Feb09 Things Go from Bad to Worse for Virginia Democrats
Feb09 Bezos-Enquirer Story Could Soon Get Political
Feb09 When It Comes to Mueller, Americans Wanna Know
Feb09 White House in Even More Turmoil
Feb09 Trump "In Very Good Health"
Feb08 Border Security Deal Appears to Be Near
Feb08 So Much for No Investigations
Feb08 Democrats May or May Not Be in Agreement over Green New Deal
Feb08 There Is a Fly in the Klobuchar Ointment
Feb08 And So It Begins: Rep. Rob Woodall Is Retiring
Feb08 John Dingell Dead at 92
Feb08 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Tim Ryan
Feb07 Takeaways from the State of the Union
Feb07 The Mess in Virginia Gets Worse
Feb07 Team Trump Prepares to Protect His Tax Returns
Feb07 On Sunday, Klobuchar Will Announce--Something
Feb07 Landrieu is Out
Feb07 House Intelligence Committee Will Send Transcripts to Mueller
Feb07 Cohen's Testimony Is Delayed Again
Feb07 Poll: Wealth Tax is Overwhelmingly Popular
Feb07 T-Mobile Executives Stayed at Trump's Hotel More than 52 Nights
Feb07 Thursday Q&A
Feb06 Trump Delivers FrankenSOTU
Feb06 Abrams Does Not Wilt Under the Spotlight
Feb06 Feds Want to Chat With Trump Organization Employees
Feb06 Nice Work, If You Can Get It? (Part I): Donald Trump