With the Mueller Investigation literally blowing up in their faces in March, the Democrats are being driven to desperation. The momentum has swung sharply in favor of the GOP and Trump with the election just over a year away.
Why Democrats will lose big time in the fight for Trump Tax returns
-By Preetam Kaushik
With the Mueller Investigation literally blowing up in their faces in March, the Democrats are being driven to desperation. The momentum has swung sharply in favor of the GOP and Trump with the election just over a year away. With “collusion” no longer a viable weapon, the Dems have turned their attention to another of their pet peeves in these last three years – President Trump’s tax records.
Ever since his bid for the election in 2016, Trump’s opponents have been calling for a look at his tax returns. The main hope then (and now) seems to be that they might contain shady business deals and other shenanigans that can be used by his opponents politically. And nothing has changed in the past three years, with the President steadfastly refusing to make those returns public.
But with the Mueller witch hunt in full swing in 2017-18, the Democrats opted for more of a wait and watch approach on all things. They were betting big on the investigation revealing enough evidence to bring down the President. Now that those impeachment dreams have been turned into dust, the Dems have revealed a newfound enthusiasm for Trump’s tax returns that borders somewhere between the comical and farcical.
Is Trump breaking the law by not revealing his tax returns?
Before we get down to the sordid details of recent Democratic machinations at the Federal and State level to force the publication of those tax returns, we need to answer this important question. And the answer is an overwhelming “NO.” The President is NOT breaking any laws by refusing to make his financial details public.
For starters, neither the US Constitution nor Federal/State statutes require any individual to reveal his financial returns to any organization other than the IRS. And no, there is no exception to this for sitting US Presidents or Presidential candidates.
This whole debate revolving around Trump’s tax returns arose because he decided to break a long-standing Presidential convention. It was Richard Nixon who started this tradition of Presidents voluntarily making their tax returns public, ostensibly as a show of transparency. But never was it codified into law that Presidents have to make their returns public.
We all know that Trump is far from a “conventional” president. He also happens to be a very successful business tycoon, whose financial interests could legitimately be harmed if sensitive information was made public. The White House has steadfastly maintained that the Presidents returns cannot be made public because they are being audited.
Even if that is not true, Trump would very well be within his rights keep his sensitive financial information private, for sound business reasons. In fact, this is largely a settled point in the US judicial system – as Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg once wrote, “absolute privacy is fundamental to a tax system that relies upon self-reporting.”
Any attempts to coerce someone to reveal their tax returns would be a violation of their Constitutional rights. As clearly explained by Trump’s personal lawyer in this letter, the Dems are in for a tough time at the courts!
Democrats dig up obscure laws in their moment of desperation
The House of Representatives is where all the action against the White House is taking place at the moment, given the Democratic superiority there. In the battle for tax returns, the focal point is the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, headed by Richard Neal (D-Mass). On April 3, Neal asked the IRS to release six years of the President’s personal as well as business tax returns.
This audacious request is based on a little-known law that dates back to 1924. This provision in the IRS Code gives the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee the power to seek and view the tax information of all US citizens, including the President. The ball is now in the Court of the IRS Commissioner, Charles P Rettig, who happens to be a Trump appointee.
If Rettig does decide to comply with the request, it would fall to the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to release the returns. The White House has naturally stated that it would resist all such political attempts by the Democrats to gain access to the President’s private financial data. The stage is set for a direct confrontation between Congressional Democrats and the White House.
Why the odds are stacked heavily in favor of Trump in the courts
Since this would be a constitutional crisis, It would fall to the Federal Courts to decide this contest. And with the appeals process, we can expect the case to reach the Supreme Court since neither party will be in any mood to give up. The White House can mount a reasonable challenge against the Ways and Means committee request. There is a clear precedent to the current situation dating back to the 1950s era of McCarthyism.
In Watkins v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot use “exposure for the sake of exposure” or try to function like the executive, law enforcement, or a trial agency. And in their blind pursuit of Trump’s tax records purely for the sake of political gain, Rep. Neal and his Committee are guilty of doing just that.
It comes as no surprise that the Democrats spent nearly a month debating the letter they sent to the IRS Commissioner. They know they are treading on thin ice here. The Supreme Court is stacked with conservative justices at the moment, and even liberal ones like Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely frown upon the blatant violation of individual privacy that the Dems are trying to perform here.
If you fail at the Federal level, try again at the State level!
Since their moves at the Federal level have a high chance of failure, the Democrats are trying to subvert the system by making legislativeÃ‚Â moves at the state level in New York. Since Trump is a long time resident of NYC, many of his most important businesses are based there. The state is also a Democratic base, with a majority in the state legislature and a Democrat Governor.
Currently, there are no less than three different bills making the rounds at the Senate and House in Albany, and all of them have the President in their crosshairs! One of them authorizes the State tax authorities to release state tax returns of any individual (including the President) to three Congressional Committees.
Another one, called the New York Truth Act, explicitly authorizes the state tax department to release tax returns of federal and state officials including the President, in the event they earn income in the state of New York. The bills have received the firm backing of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a long-term opponent and critic of Trump.
There is no mistaking the political angle in these legislative efforts by the Democrats. Of course, they will try to portray these as honest attempts to improve politics in the US by bringing some welcome “transparency.”But that is just window dressing. Anyone with even a shred of common sense will see this for what it is – a blatant attempt to forcefully gain access to private information for political gain.
In all probability, these bills will get called out by the courts, just like the House Ways and Means Committee. They may be talking about state tax returns in the bills, but those returns are based on Federal returns, which as we already noted, are protected by law. Separating one from the other would be quite difficult, if not downright impossible.
The recent moves by Democrats at the Federal and State level are both farcical as well as incredibly harmful for the future of democracy in the Union. They would set a dangerous precedent for future lawmakers to follow. This is the kind of downward spiral we can all do without.
And they are farcical because even if they were to win the legal battle,the law prevents Congress from making the tax information public. They would be committing a felony if they leaked the information. So their only practical objective here is to harass the president while trying to create a narrative of yet another grand conspiracy.
All this political grandstanding is doing nobody any favors, least of all the Democrats themselves. The President’s lawyers can comfortably block these attempts in the Courts and probably keep them there until the 2020 elections and beyond. This is one battle they cannot win in time for it to make an impact at the next elections.