Thursday, April 11, 2019

Will Trump Have to Release His Tax Returns?

We are about to find out whether any truth remains in the statement of principle carved into the facade above the entrance to the US Supreme Court Building: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW. With Democrats now in the majority in the House of Representatives, President Trump is about to be subjected to the kind of scrutiny lacking under the previous Republican-controlled House.

In one such case, moves are underway to get Trump to do something every president has done voluntarily since the days of Nixon: show the American people his tax returns. Section 6301(f)(1) of the tax code is unequivocal in its authority. It states:

"Upon written request from the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives...the (Treasury) Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request..."

The current Ways and Means Chairman, Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, has sent such a request to IRS through Treasury. It comprises the past six years of Trump's personal taxes, from years 2013 through 2018, and the returns of eight of his companies. Note that there is no uncertainty or ambiguity in the statute. The chairman can request "any" return. The Secretary of the Treasury "shall furnish" the returns or information requested.

That hasn't stopped Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a Trump appointee, from refusing to comply. The committee deadline for receiving the documents was April 10. Instead, Mnuchin returned a message to Congressman Neal referring to "serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy off the asserted legislative purpose, and the constitutional rights of American citizens." In other words, to him, the plain letter of the law is meaningless. The Trump Administration will fight the request, tie things up in the courts, and attempt to run out the clock on transparency until after the 2020 election, the end of Trump's projected second term, or likely in perpetuity if possible.

So, does the clear wording of the law have any meaning, or does the fact one is president nullify any obligation to adhere to it? In the coming months we will get a clear answer to that question, along with a good indication of whether we are still a republic, or are evolving into something else.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Intriguing New Presidential Candidate

Here is a possibility for the new, charismatic face many Democrats have been looking for in the Democratic 2020 presidential field. Pete Buttigieg (pronounced Bootajedge) has surged to the top rank in the polls and trails only Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris in the amount of money raised through small contributions so far. The South Bend, Ind. mayor appeared on "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" recently and was, I felt, pretty impressive. This isn't an endorsement; I'm tentatively supporting Sen. Harris, but Mayor Pete merits a look.  Watch the interview linked below if you have some time. It's 15 minutes.