Return Receipt Requested?

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Return Receipt Requested?

(Photo: Tony Webster/flickr/cc)

Oh for the good old days of heavy post-coaches and speed at the rate of six miles an hour.

— Philip Hone, Diary, November 28, 1834

The preferred way of answering the question would have been to give Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.SC)a copy of his most recent tax returns. Another, and the one chosen, was to have his lawyers send Senator Graham a letter.

The issue arises because Senator Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that has been trying to determine whether there was interference by the Russians in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That was the election that magically transformed the corrupt businessman, DJT, into a completely unqualified, and totally incompetent, president of the United States. Senator Graham told CNN that he is exploring the possibility that there are ties between Russia and DJT’s businesses. In trying to determine that he asked for evidence of DJT’s business connections to Russia, if any.

If Senator Graham had had access to DJT’s tax returns, he would not have needed the letter. DJT, however, refuses to release those returns because, as he used to say, they were under audit and he couldn’t release them until the audits were completed. Now that his tax lawyers have said that the audits of his tax returns for the years 2005-2008 have been completed, the proffered reasons for refusing to release them is because no one wants to see them except the corrupt press. His refusal to release his returns does not suggest, however, that DJT is uncooperative. He came up with the perfect way to satisfy Senator Graham without exposing his tax returns to the light of day or inquiring eyes. He provided what he called a “certified” letter dated March 8, 2017 from his law firm in response to Senator Graham’s early May request. The word “certified” may or may not refer to the method of delivery as discussed hereafter. Perhaps the word “certified” was used because it adds a certain weightiness to something as mundane as a letter.

The “certified” letter that DJT provided to Senator Graham, was prepared by Sheri Dillon, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Morgan Lewis and Brockus. Sheri was the lawyer who appeared with DJT on January 11, 2017, at DJT’s first press conference as president. The press conference was called, in part, to introduce the public to dozens of boxes of documents assembled by Sheri. The unseen contents of those boxes proved DJT had done what he was required to do to avoid conflicts of interest even though, as Sheri explained at the press conference, “conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president.”. Nonetheless, it was reassuring to see all the boxes.

Since Sheri did such a fine job at the January press conference, it was not surprising that she and a colleague in her law firm were the ones who wrote the letter about DJT’s business dealings in Russia. In addition to having represented DJT for many years, there are few lawyers better qualified to make representations about DJT’s business connections in Russia. Not only does Sheri’s law firm maintain an office in Moscow, but in 2016 her firm was named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” by Chambers & Partners, a firm that rates and ranks outstanding law firms around the world.

Sheri’s letter says that 10 years of the same tax returns that Senator Graham (and the public) have not been permitted to see, show that, with three exceptions noted at the end of the letter, DJT has “no income of any type from any Russian sources.” The three exceptions are (a) several million dollars received from the Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow in 2013, (b) $95 million received from the sale of an estate in Florida to a “Russian billionaire” and© “over the years it is likely that [DJT entities or DJT] engaged in ordinary course sales of goods or services to Russians or Russian entities. . .. With respect to this last exception,” Sheri’s letter says, “the amounts are immaterial.” “Immaterial” probably has a different meaning to DJT and Sheri, than it does to the rest of us. Immaterial amounts, according to Sheri, include money received from “sales of goods or services to Russians. . . such as sale . . .for condominiums, hotel rooms . . .Trump licensed products (e.g. ties, mattresses, wine etc.) that could have produced income attributable to Russian sources. . ..”

In addition to the information contained in the letter, its delivery, rather than its contents, is what made it special. In discussing delivery of the letter to Senator Graham in a press conference, Sean Spicer said: “IT IS BEING SENT BY CERTIFIED MAIL.” The fact that it is being sent by certified mail (instead of being hand delivered the way the letter firing James Comey was), means it is more important than a letter dropped in a mail box on the White House grounds. Sean did not indicate whether it was simply sent by certified mail or whether the White House took the additional precaution of sending it “certified mail-return receipt requested,” thus making it an even more important missive.

Only a person unfamiliar with the workings of the DJT White House would find it surprising that the President of the United States would respond to a request for information from a United States Senator by sending the information to the United States Senator by the U.S. Postal Service instead of having it hand carried. On the other hand, it was slightly more respectful than responding to Senator Graham’s request with a tweet.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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