Will America see Donald Trump's tax returns before the election? The answer can be yes - if President Obama acts now.
For months the Republican presidential candidate has said both that he would release his paperwork but it's off limits because he's facing an IRS audit. So, on the advice of his attorneys, Trump will not make his returns public.
Among the public, many believe Trump's worries are entirely real. After all, who among us has ever had a conversation with the IRS which was a fun event?
So is there a solution, one which will satisfy the presidential tradition of tax disclosure while at the same time addressing Trump's worries about penalties and costs?
The answer to the Trump dilemma can be found in Article II of the US Constitution. There it plainly says that the President "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."
Give Trump A Presidential Pardon
If Trump is worried about the legal and financial ramifications of releasing his returns then to resolve such concerns President Obama must offer Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump a full, free, and absolute pardon. The pardon - to paraphrase wording from Gerald Ford's 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon - shall include all offenses against the United States which Mr. and Mrs. Trump committed or may have committed or taken part as a result of federal income tax returns filed during the period from January 1, 2006 through September 1, 2016. This pardon shall only apply to returns from Mr. and Mrs. Trump which are; one, posted in full on the Internet for the general public to see; and two, posted online prior to October 15, 2016.
Can the President do this? Sure. Not only can Obama pardon Trump, there's nothing Congress or the courts can do about it.
"The power to pardon is one of the least limited powers granted to the President in the Constitution," explained the Heritage Foundation in defense of the 2007 pardon of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr. by President George W. Bush.
So there you have it. The solution to Trump's IRS worries is very simple: For the good of the country let him win. With a presidential pardon, he will have no legal or financial jeopardy and can confidently release his returns. In turn, the public will have a chance to see his financial records in the same way that they have viewed the tax filings for every candidate going back to Richard Nixon.
President Obama can pardon Trump today. By doing so he can resolve Trump's objection to disclosing his tax returns and help voters better understand the candidate's finances. And Trump, of course, can then put up or shut up.