By Jon Dougherty
Democrats in the House have been demanding six years’ worth of POTUS Donald Trump’s tax returns because they say they need them in order to perform their ‘oversight’ role regarding — something — but the president has so far refused to cave to the demands.
Last week, the Treasury Department also refused to comply, citing case law and other constitutional provisions that preclude Congress’ right to review the tax returns of any U.S. citizen (which, of course, the president is not justÂ any U.S. citizen).
Treasury’s refusal led House Democrats to huff and puff, with Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) threatening further actions such as holding more Trump administration members in contempt.
But now the Justice Department has spoken as well and has come out in defense of the president and the Executive Branch’s separation of power in backing Treasury.
Roll Call reports:
The Justice Department released an opinion Friday that backed up the Treasury Departmentâ€™s decision not to give Congress copies of President Donald Trumpâ€™s tax returns, concluding that the â€œtrue aimâ€ was to make the documents public and that â€œis not a legitimate legislative purpose.â€
The Office of Legal Counsel opinion comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena for Trumpâ€™s tax returns from House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal last month.
The OLC acknowledges that a law does not require Neal to state a purpose when requesting tax returns.
But the agency concluded that Congress canâ€™t give itself the right to compel information that does not serve a legitimate legislative purpose, and that Nealâ€™s request was â€œpretextual.â€
In other words, Neal just ‘wants’ the president’s tax returns; obtaining them would not advance any lawmaking function.
And most politicos understand that Democrats likely just want the president’s returns so they can leak them to an eagerly awaiting media for the purposes of embarrassing him.
The law, it seems, is not as solid or clear on this issue as the Constitution, and the Justice Department’s OLC appears to agree that a president’s rights under Executive Branch privilege must be defended.
Next step: Federal court. Already, two federal judges appointed by Obama have sided with House Democrats on the issue of Trump family financial records. But as we pointed out earlier, we believe POTUS will ultimately win this battle:
Itâ€™s good that the president is appealing. He should; itâ€™s not just his business records heâ€™s trying to keep from being exposed/leaked by the pathetic Democrats who would rather play political circus games than actually legislate. Itâ€™s the Executive Branch heâ€™s trying to protect.
But when all of the dust settles and these cases make their way to the Supreme Court, as is likely, the president has all of the constitutional cards on his side, as it were.
Yes, the House has subpoena power, but there is nothing in the Constitution giving the Legislative Branch the power to extort the head of the Executive Branch for records ofÂ anyÂ kind. And since the Constitution, not Jerrold Nadler and Maxine Waters, is the final word on presidential requirements, we donâ€™t expect New York Stateâ€™s BS law requiring all presidential candidates toÂ revealÂ their tax returns before they can be on the ballot to withstand a Supreme Court challenge, either.
Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10