Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Under federal law, congressional committees which request any taxpayer’s returns can only review them in a closed executive session. While congressional committees do have the legal authority to request tax returns, it must be for a legitimate legislative purpose, and not just to disclose them willy-nilly. Taxpayers have a right to privacy in this.
Now comes The New York Times:
By Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner | May 7, 2019
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Donald J. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. Now The Times has obtained 10 years of previously unrevealed figures from the president’s federal income tax returns. The tax numbers, for the years 1985 through 1994, paint a far bleaker picture of Mr. Trump’s deal-making abilities and financial condition than the one he has long put forth.
Mr. Trump became an unprecedented president — a businessman and reality television star with no government experience — and he broke with decades-old presidential tradition by refusing to release his income tax returns. Questions about what secrets they may hold — about his recent business dealings and the sources of his financing — only intensified with the Russia inquiry, and the Trump administration is now locked in a battle with House Democrats demanding the last six years of the president’s returns. On Monday, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he would not give a House committee access to the returns.
The newly revealed tax information covers an earlier period of Mr. Trump’s business career. And The Times did not obtain Mr. Trump’s actual tax returns. But it obtained printouts from his official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, from someone who had legal access to them. They represent the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes. And they show that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings — ran up $1.17 billion in losses.
Let’s be clear here: when the Times admits that they were given the records by “someone who had legal access to them,” they are admitting that someone in the Treasury Department or Infernal Revenue Service broke the law, violating a taxpayer’s right to privacy for political reasons. Donald Trump not only wasn’t President between 1985 and 1994, he was not a political candidate then, nor making any noises about running for office. There was no legitimate reason to steal this information — and stealing it is exactly what this IRS employee did; legal access to those returns does not include any right to copy them, print them out, carry them elsewhere or disclose them to anyone who did not have such legal access — and the person who stole this information should be identified and prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.
26 U.S. Code § 7213: It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee of the United States or any person described in section 6103(n) (or an officer or employee of any such person), or any former officer or employee, willfully to disclose to any person, except as authorized in this title, any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)). Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution, and if such offense is committed by any officer or employee of the United States, he shall, in addition to any other punishment, be dismissed from office or discharged from employment upon conviction for such offense.
And if the Times sought out such a person to make such an illegal disclosure and offered him even a dime to do so:
It shall be unlawful for any person willfully to offer any item of material value in exchange for any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) and to receive as a result of such solicitation any such return or return information. Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
Mr Trump is regularly audited, and no criminal or civil action has been taken against him over his tax returns. Further, the statute of limitations for criminal liability is normally three years, extended to six in some cases, a far more recent period than 1985 through 1994.
The only purpose of these disclosures is some form of journalistic voyeurism and sensationalism. Given how this information was disclosed, without regard to the taxpayer’s privacy rights, and for no purpose other than political advantage, it is absolutely right for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to refuse to turn over President Trump’s tax returns to the committee, because Mr Trump’s privacy rights cannot be guaranteed.
If you found this article interesting, annoying or outrageous, please visit my Red State story archive to be further interested, annoyed or outraged.
My personal website, The First Street Journal, includes articles not necessarily in Red State’s paradigm.
You can, and should, follow me on Twitter.