Washington state will keep Trump off the ballot unless he releases tax returns
The Washington state Senate has passed a bill that would require candidates to release 5 years of tax returns before appearing on a primary or general election ballot.
The law is aimed at Donald Trump who, so far, has declined to release any of his tax returns, despite every presidential candidate in the last 40 years who have done so.
Democrats in Congress have made it clear that they will find a way to get Trump to release his taxes. But the reality is that no one can force an individual to release their tax returns.
"The disclosure requirement you propose is likely Constitutional," the two wrote to lawmakers, according to CBS, adding that the measure "would definitely be challenged in court."
Democrats who supported the bill said the provision was necessary to force a return to norms surrounding the release of presidential candidates' tax returns.
"Although releasing tax returns has been the norm for about the last 40 years in presidential elections, unfortunately we've seen that norm broken," said Sen. Patty Kuderer (D), who sponsored the bill, according to CBS.
Republicans, however, argued that the state was getting into questionable territory by attempting to impose rules on a federal election.
"We're on really risky ground when we're trying to place conditions on a federal election," said Sen. Hans Zeiger (R), according to CBS.
Trump caused controversy throughout the 2016 campaign with his refusal to release his tax returns, claiming at the time to be under audit by the IRS. In recent weeks, Democrats in the House have indicated that they may pursue Trump's returns in the hopes of investigating the president's finances for criminal activity.
A similar bill recently advanced in New Jersey's state Senate and is currently sitting in the state's General Assembly.
Democrats are fond of reminding us recently that presidents are not above the law. This is very true. But it's also true that the law is not above them. Trump has a right to privacy regarding his tax returns, which cannot be released without the approval of the IRS commissioner:
Republicans, who have argued that Trump has the right to privacy, quickly made clear they believe any request from Democrats wouldn't be lawful -- opening up the possibility of an extended fight over whether Mnuchin will hand over the returns if a request is made.
"This is a violation of the law," Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said outside the hearing.
"I believe Democrats are violating the law, and it sets a dangerous precedent," Brady added.
In the hearing, Mnuchin also explicitly told House lawmakers that in no way has Trump asked him to intervene into the matter or held discussions about the issue with anyone inside the White House or with Trump's attorneys.
When asked by California Democrat Jimmy Gomez whether Trump had asked him to intervene on the matter, Mnuchin said, "He has not."
The tax writing committees of both the House and Senate apparently have the power to request Trump's tax returns from the commissioner. But they would have to have a darn good reason besides trying to embarrass the president.
Trump has his own reasons for not releasing his tax returns. He doesn't need a reason at all. This fishing expedition by House Democrats should be challenged in court and the issue of presidential tax returns decided once and for all.