To say that Trump and his Republican cronies are acting in bad faith over the disclosure of Trump’s tax returns is putting it mildly. You may remember Mick Mulvaney’s preposterous comments over the weekend on Fox News Sunday:
HEMMER: To be clear, you believe Democrats will never see the president’s tax returns?
MULVANEY: Oh, no, never. Nor should they.
Keep in mind, that that’s an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn’t and they elected him anyway, which is, of course, what drives the Democrats crazy.
It doesn’t need to be pointed out that if Obama had tried this, they would have impeached him immediately. This is yet another stellar example of It’s Okay If You’re A Republican. But think about the hubris of Mulvaney’s comments in light of previous administrations. Washington Post:
And this isn’t about whether “Democrats” will see the president’s tax returns; it’s about whether the public will. But before we move on to the legal question, let’s consider the idea that this issue “was already litigated during the election.”
Imagine if when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Bill Clinton had said, “The American people knew I was a philanderer when they elected me. This was all litigated in 1992, so we shouldn’t talk about it anymore.” Or if Richard Nixon had said, “The American people knew about Watergate when I ran for reelection. This was all litigated in 1972. It’s over; move on.”
The idea that if the president won he gets a blanket immunity for anything that came up during the election is ludicrous. Meanwhile, the “I can’t release the returns because I’m being audited” excuse was always a lie. The IRS doesn’t forbid anyone from making their returns public if they’re being audited.
Now, you know that if Trump’s tax returns were pristine, that he would have them displayed prominently on billboards all over the country, just like if the Mueller report “fully exonerated” him, it would be the New Republican Bible and Sean Hannity would be quoting from it chapter and verse every single night. Bob Mueller would be “beautiful Bob” or some such sobriquet, and Trump would be looking to put him on the ticket as his vice president in 2020, unless I miss my guess. None of that is happening.
So, not only is the failure to disclose the tax returns a red flag, it is illegal as hell, and if Steve Mnuchin tries to block the release of Trump’s tax returns, he could be looking at a prison cell. I seriously doubt if Mnuchin is willing to go to those lengths to protect Donald Trump. He’s too comfortable with his nice pad in Bel Aire and his movie star wife to want to trade it in for an orange jumpsuit, and a cell mate named Rocko.
Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers weighed in on Mnuchin’s plight:
So for the secretary to seek to decide whether to pass on the president’s tax return to Congress would surely be inappropriate and probably illegal. I would surely not have done it. Rather, I would have indicated to the IRS commissioner that I expected the IRS to comply with the law as always.
What would that mean? The relevant provisions date from 1924, and I have not been able to find any case where the IRS did not promptly provide full disclosure to a tax-writing committee. The statute is entirely clear regarding the right of the committee to request individual taxpayer information. And Congress explicitly prohibits the IRS from withholding information from inquiries such as this one: Section 1203 of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act details the “10 deadly sins” for which IRS employees can be fired. Number 7 is “willful misuse” of the provisions of Section 6103 — invoked last week by Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee — to conceal information from a congressional inquiry.
The only conceivable argument that the IRS commissioner could make for not turning over the president’s return would be to suggest that the committee had no legitimate purpose relating to its work for requesting the return. This is an absurd argument with respect to Trump’s returns. Most obviously, the committee has a legitimate interest in monitoring the auditing and enforcement of the law with respect to sitting presidents, especially in light of the known problems with the initial audits of President Richard M. Nixon’s returns. There are also legitimate grounds for the request centered on oversight of potential conflicts of interest the president may possess.
Mnuchin doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He has to order that the IRS commissioner do his duty and comply with the law. If he does not, then he is breaking the law and violating his oath of office to uphold the law — not that that isn’t routinely expected in Trumpworld. That’s what got Kirstjen Nielsen the ax, most recently, her refusal to just implement trump law over the rule of law.
I hope you like chicken, Donald, because they’re all coming home to roost. And I hope you like them broiled, because that’s how hot it’s gonna get.