By Jon Dougherty
Last week we published a story discussing House Democrats’ demands for six years’ worth of POTUS Donald Trump’s tax returns, noting it had nothing to do with “conducting legitimate oversight” but rather was little more than a distracting — and potentially unconstitutional — political ploy aimed at embarrassing him.
…[T]his business of Congress demanding POTUSâ€™ tax returns has to be dealt with legally and constitutionally because it is a gross violation of Fourth Amendment privacy rights. …
Anyone who has spent a month covering Washington politics knows that Democrats have no interest in the presidentâ€™s returns other than to use them in some way to embarrass him or expose him legally.
But letâ€™s be clear about some things here. Whether the presidentâ€™s last name is Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, or whomever:
â€” There is no constitutional requirement for the president to release his tax returns, so all of the Democratic and media noise about the president â€˜failing to releaseâ€™ them is just that,Â noise
â€” There is no legal requirement for the president to release his tax returns to the public, and just because â€˜all other presidents have done itâ€™ makes no difference whatsoever;
â€” The IRS is also an enforcement agency; ifÂ billionaireÂ Donald Trump had run afoul of the nationâ€™s tax agency in the past, it would have caught up with him already â€” long before he got two years into his first term.
As for the statute claiming that Congress has an inherent right to see anyoneâ€™s tax returns for any reason â€” and call it â€œoversightâ€ â€” there has to be a legal challenge to that at some point, and POTUSâ€™ case is perfect for that.
We also noted that whether lawmakers review individual tax returns â€œin closed sessionâ€ isnâ€™t the point; theÂ realÂ questions are, does Congress have a right to them in the first place and if so, why, given that the IRS does enforcement, not the Legislative Branch?
The president isnâ€™t â€˜just another taxpayer,â€™ heâ€™s the constitutional head of the Executive Branch, and as such cannot â€” and should not â€” be encumbered by witch hunt demands for his personal financial information from political rivals in Congress (fromÂ eitherÂ party), we added.
The â€˜provision in federal tax codeâ€™ that â€˜allowsâ€™ Congress to demand the presidentâ€™s tax returns is a massive invasion of privacy and a huge distraction. This is a case the president needs to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary â€” not just for himself but for all Americans.
We recommended: “He should instruct Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to ignore Nealâ€™s demand and let the lawyers fight it out in federal court.”
And that’s just what Mnuchin is doing.
The Treasury secretary ignored a Democrat-imposed deadline for Treasury to hand over the president’s returns over “constitutional” concerns: “The Committeeâ€™s request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authorityâ€ Mnuchin said in his letter to House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), who sought the returns.
NEW: Treasury Sec. Mnuchin responds to request for President Trump's tax returns, saying dept. will not be able to complete review by request date: "The Committee's request raises serious issues concerning constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority" pic.twitter.com/garPruHp7X
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 10, 2019
Some ridiculed us when we made the case that this is a constitutional issue the president and his team should fight. ‘The IRS regulation is clear,’ we were told. ‘The president has no choice.’
But just because the IRS has a regulation or a provision is ensconced in statutory law doesn’t make itÂ constitutional, and that appears to be the very same question the president’s legal team has as well.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10