The political battle between the Democrats in the House of Representatives and President Trump concerning the release of tax returns has moved to the courts.
President Trump has sued to block the Democrat-led U.S. House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his tax records from New York State under the T.R.U.S.T. Act, in the latest attempt to keep his personal financial information out of public view.1 N.Y.'s T.R.U.S.T. Act compels the state's tax department to comply with the Ways and Means Committee's records requests. The president is suing as a private citizen claiming the right to privacy that is enjoyed by citizens of the U.S.
The lawsuit comes three weeks after the Committee, led by a Massachusetts Democrat, sued to force the U.S. Treasury Department and I.R.S. to hand over Trump's tax records from the past six years. That suit was filed after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuffed earlier requests for the information.
In an August 20, 2019, filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lawyers for House Ways and Means Democrats asked Judge Trevor McFadden to grant a motion for summary judgment. House lawyers said in the filing that there is no genuine dispute as to the facts of the case and that they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.2
Obtaining President Trump's New York State tax returns would expose his business relationships in years prior to his election to the Office of President, as the New York State tax return would contain Federal tax information. There is currently no requirement that this information be disclosed, but all elected presidents since Richard Nixon have routinely done so. It should be remembered that many presidents reported significant income only after their terms in office were completed. President Trump differs from his counterparts in that regard.
On July 30, 2019, a Joint Status Report was filed, in summary, stating:
Following yesterday's hearing and this Court's minute order, the parties have met and conferred in good faith 'to determine whether they can reach an agreement regarding how best to proceed in light of [the court's] three goals' of (1) 'ensuring that Mr. Trump's claims do not become moot before they can be litigated,' (2) 'treading as lightly as possible, if at all, on separation of powers and Speech or Debate Clause concerns,' and (3) 'adjudicating the issues in this dispute only when it is actually ripe and has a fuller record than presently exists.' . . . Notwithstanding their best efforts, the parties are unable to reach agreement.
On another front, the State of California has passed a law requiring any candidate for president to disclose previously filed tax returns as a condition of appearing on California's primary ballot.3
The president sued the California secretary of state on August 6, 2019, in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California, asking for Declaratory and Injunctive relief.4 The suit states that California's Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act is unconstitutional and that the Constitution sets the qualifications for president, vice president, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. The suit also states that according to the Constitution, states are limited in placing restrictions on candidates and that states are barred from passing laws in order to "retaliate" against a person, which the president contends is the purpose of California's law.5
1 Trump v. Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, 19cv-2173, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington), July 23, 2019.
2 As reported by Reuters, August 20, 2019
3 On July 30, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, also known as SB27. The law requires all candidates for president to disclose their previous five years of tax returns as a condition of appearing on a primary ballot.
4 Case 2:19-at-00705 Document 1 Filed 08/06/19.
5 On September 19, 2019, it was reported that U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. issued a temporary injunction from the bench, saying he will make a final ruling in the coming days but that Trump and other candidates could face "irreparable harm without temporary relief."
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