When he ran for president in 2016, Donald Trump broke with established precedent in refusing to release his tax returns. He first claimed that he wasn’t allowed to release them because of an audit, and in later instances just flat out refused to release them for various other reasons.
Small pieces of the returns have leaked over the last two years, such as on two occasions when past tax returns have been leaked to media outlets, first the New York Times and later NBC News. Journalist Tim O’Brien, who Trump sued in the early 2000s, has said that he has seen Trump’s tax returns but is not legally allowed to disclose what is in them. The incoming Democratic House majority has made noises about wanting to subpoena the returns, which they may or may not be legally allowed to do.
But what if special counsel Robert Mueller already has the returns?
That’s the hypothesis put forward this week on television by a former federal prosecutor who worked under Mueller at the FBI. Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney, said on MSNBC Thursday that he believes Mueller already has Trump’s tax returns.
“Absolutely, no question in my mind from day one,” Rosenberg said on the show Deadline White House, with Nicolle Wallace. He added that “the first thing that white-collar prosecutors do…is you get tax returns and you get credit reports… You get tax returns with an order from a federal judge and you get credit reports with a grand jury subpoena because those are the documents that give you leads.”
Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney for the state of Virginia and former acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, served as counsel to the director of the FBI from 2002 to 2003 when Mueller was the director.
It’s important to note that Rosenberg is not claiming firsthand knowledge about Mueller having the tax returns, and there does not appear to have been any reporting indicating that Mueller has access to the returns. It’s also not clear that, if Mueller has Trump’s tax returns, they’re for Trump personally, for the Trump Organization, or for some other past business entity.
In other Mueller-related news on Friday, Politico reported that the special counsel is “locked in a dispute with a mystery grand jury witness resisting giving up information sought in the ongoing probe into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.” It’s unclear which witness the dispute involves.