Expect the opening salvo of proggie House overreach to come over making Trump’s tax returns public. They can’t do it, but it will be fun to watch them try.
The progs are obsessed with revealing Trump’s tax returns. It is a fishing expedition reminiscent of a quote by Stalin’s Chief of the Secret Police, Lavrentiy Beria: “Show me the man(‘s tax return); I’ll find you the crime.”
As a proggie at Politico wrote not long ago:
For the past two years, the search for Donald Trump’s unseen tax returns has been something of a quest for the Holy Grail, an elusive trophy that could unlock the mysteries of our political universe. Lacking real proof as to what the president’s tax documents might show, the imagination swells with possibility: Russia ties? Massive personal debts? A wealth substantially lower than his self-reported $10 billion fortune? Something nefarious?
Well the proggies now have the promised land in sight. Reads an article in the Daily Wire:
Democrats had barely wrested control of the House Tuesday night when they demanded President Donald Trump turn over his tax returns. Wednesday morning, Democrats declared that investigating Trump’s personal financial records would be the first item on their agenda come January.
Democratic Representative Richard Neal (MA) told MSNBC Tuesday night that he plans on using his newfound power as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to force the President to turn over his tax returns, and that he’ll subpoena the records if necessary. . . .
And reads one recent article in a Seattle newspaper, apparently seeing the overreach:
Rep. Maxine Waters, D. Calif., easily won re-election Tuesday night and as the ranking member, is likely set to take over as the chairperson of the House Financial Services Committee.
Waters, a vocal critic (and often target) of Trump, has served as the top Democrat on the committee since Barney Frank retired in 2013, and a number of liberal Twitter rejoiced in the fact that Waters has the power to subpoena President Trump’s tax returns.
. . . However, several conservative Twitter users noted that the potential circus a Waters subpoena of Trump’s taxes could cause might ultimately help him win re-election in 2020.
So, can these highly motivated proggies get a hold of Trump’s tax returns? (Incidentally, given the political demographics of the IRS — 2-1 favoring Dems — it’s highly probable that Dem politicos already have Trump’s tax returns, and either think they’ll humiliate him or that they can use the tax code’s complexities to find him guilty of something.)
Perhaps they can get hold of them, but even then, they cannot release them without committing a felony. Let’s go down the checklist:
One, there is no law requiring a President or a candidate for the Presidency to release his tax returns. Federal laws against disclosure protect his returns just as surely as they protect every other American’s returns. And while I am sure this will come as a surprise to many snowflakes, the mere fact that the proggies hate him is not grounds for a waiver of the law.
Two, Trump has protections under 4th Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, . . .
I explained the history of the 4th Amendment not long ago in relation to FISA warrants. That explanation is equally applicable to Trump’s tax returns. The amendment was written precisely to protect against such government fishing expeditions as the proggies are openly contemplating. It is hard to imagine any clearer violation of the Constitution.
Three, but that said, federal law gives House Committee Chairman wide latitude to investigate beyond merely breaking of the law, seemingly dispensing with probable cause. 26 U.S. Code § 6103 – Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information, provides at (f)(1):
(f) Disclosure to Committees of Congress
(1) Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, . . . the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, . . .
On its face, that statute should give every American pause. It seems to say that any member of one of those committees can go on a fishing trip into the tax returns of political enemies, ranging from the candidate who almost beat him for office and plans to run again to . . . you. The statute does not seem to have been challenged in , though. I can therefore guarantee, given the pronouncements of countless proggie Congresscritters, that they want to and will fish through Trump’s tax returns for possible crimes or scandals — even though he has been repeatedly audited by the IRS as recently as 2016.
The good news is that, unless some foolish lawyers advise him otherwise, Donald “He Fights” Trump will challenge such a subpoena in Court and he will have the spirit of our Constitution on his side. That said, it is the rest of paragraph 26 U.S. Code § 6103(f)(1) that will break proggy hearts. Even though, technically speaking, they can probably dream up an ostensible reason for subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns that is not an obvious 4th Amendment violation, the same law prohibits them from making any such information public:
. . . except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.
The jokes don’t need to write themselves, because that joke has already been written:
A Baptist pastor decides to play hooky on a Sunday to play golf. He’s playing the best golf of his life when an angel asks God, “Are you going to let this slide? Do something!”
So God says, “Watch this.”
The pastor hits a 425-yard tee shot and the ball goes in the hole for a double eagle. The angel asks, “Why did you reward him?”
God says, “Who is he gonna tell?”
I think we can safely rule out Trump granting a voluntary disclosure to the public. For those seeking to disclose his returns without his permission, they might want to recall that the penalty for disclosing not merely the tax return itself, but any tax information contained therein, is a stiff one. 26 U.S. Code § 7213 – Unauthorized disclosure of information, provides that a person who discloses such information will be guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Trump’s argument to prevent disclosure will no doubt point to the countless partisan leaks of information from Congress.
And just in case all else fails, at least one legal genius, writing at Politico, thinks that states can independently mandate Trump release his tax returns by requiring all Presidential candidates do so as a precondition for being placed on the State ballot for the federal election. Er . . . no. Indeed, that is laughable.
The Supreme Court long ago, in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, slapped down the idea of state’s denying federal ballot access on the basis of adding any qualifications other than those set forth in the U.S. Constitution. The author tries to make the sophomoric argument that requiring disclosure would simply be a legitimate exercise of the states “plenary” power under U.S. Const. Article II, which provides that the “state legislature” “may direct” “the manner” for choosing presidential electors. Sorry, it would still be an added qualification for the office, just one step removed. The author must be an Ivy League grad to come up with that distinction without a difference.
So, this will be a circus, and Trump will be the circus barker. As I said, this should be fun. “Now in the center ring . . . ”
Cartoon by Matt Branco who posts at Legal Insurrection.