Trump says asking to see his tax returns violates the First Amendment


Trump has a very novel theory for his latest attempt to stop Americans from seeing his tax returns.

Trump is using all means necessary to avoid letting his shady financial records see the light of day.

This time, he is suing the House Ways and Means Committee — the committee that requested his tax records — and New York state officials. New York state is named in Trump's lawsuit because it recently passed a law allowing its tax commissioner to release the state tax returns of the president, vice-president, Congressmembers who represent New York, members of the president's executive staff, and people who are subject to confirmation by the Senate if requested by the House Ways and Means, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Trump has made a rather novel argument. He says that asking for his tax returns violates his First Amendment rights.

Yes, you read that right.

Trump alleges that the only reason the House Ways and Means Committee, New York state or any Democrats want his tax returns is to punish him for his political speech, which violates the First Amendment. Trump does this by pointing out that during the election people like Hillary Clinton said his tax returns might contain damaging information, including that he might not be as rich as he says he is and that the American people didn't know all of his business dealings.

That's entirely true, but Hillary Clinton didn't request Trump's tax returns — the House Ways and Means Committee did.

Trump also relies on statements from other members of the House Ways and Means Committee to make his case, but they don't seem to help him as much as he thinks they do.

For example, the suit quotes Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) saying "the public has an interest in knowing of the president's personal and business affairs." Doggett also said that Trump would "benefit personally" from tax reforms, has "payments to or from Russians" and has "conflicts with and entanglements with foreign governments and potential violations of the Emoluments Clause."

It's telling that Trump sees that as a personal attack and — by extension  — an attack on his speech. To any other observer, it is clear that Doggett is raising some critical political issues about whether or not an individual will, or should, profit from the presidency. Additionally, an inquiry into whether Trump is the puppet of Russian interests raises national security issues, which is certainly proper for the House to investigate.

Trump also repeated the nonsense claim that he couldn't be forced to release his returns because "this issue was litigated in the 2016 election." What he means by this is that since he was elected even though he didn't release his tax returns, that closes the matter. But if that principle were to hold, an individual could never be investigated as long as they won an election.

Trump's lawsuit also makes much of the fact that the Democrats at both the state and federal level oppose him politically. That's correct, but it doesn't mean they can't investigate him. If that were the case, all investigations would grind to a halt because someone could simply invoke the idea that partisanship was tainting the inquiry.

None of the multitudes of quotes Trump trots out for the lawsuit say what Trump says they do, which is that Democrats want the tax returns because they hate what he stands for, hate that he is a Republican and hate his policies.

Democrats have been uniform in saying that access to the returns is necessary because absent those, the American people have no idea whether Trump's actions are designed to line his own pockets or serve the nation. It's also unclear whether he is beholden to foreign influences, whether he launders money and so much more.

The American people deserve to know if their president is compromised, and getting access to Trump's tax returns will help them do so. That's why Trump is fighting so hard to keep them hidden.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.