The Trump years demonstrated that the norm of presidential candidates voluntarily releasing their returns is too weak
Donald Trump’s biggest worries right now might not be about Congress having released six years of his tax returns. But it is an issue where Republicans can comfortably have it both ways: please Trump’s base, as they loudly perform indignation about Democrats’ conduct, even as they cease defending a politically weakened Trump against the charges of the January 6 committee.
The Republican party has all but said that they will play tit-for-tat in the new Congress – investigations, impeachments, whatever it takes to troll Democrats and distract the public with political theater, as Republicans are unlikely to make good on campaign promises. Hence it is crucial to understand what made the release of Trump’s tax returns legitimate – and why Trump cannot appeal to privacy as a trump card – and why we must also put rules in place to prevent political witch-hunts.
Jan-Werner Mueller teaches at Princeton and is a Guardian US columnist. His most recent book is Democracy Rules