President Donald Trump continues to prove weighed down by his scandals. At this point, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a full nineteen states across the country have moved to block presidential candidates from appearing on ballots if they don’t release their recent tax returns. In other words, they’ve moved to block Donald Trump from the ballot, considering that in a break with decades of precedent, he has at this point long refused to release even a page of his tax returns. If the documents did get out, they could allow concerned observers to more fully examine potential areas of conflict of interest.
Although efforts to force that reveal have failed in a handful of states, legislation to that effect is still on the table in a full fourteen states, stretching from Arizona to New York and back to Washington. A number of the states, like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, could prove crucial to any eventual presidential election victory in November 2020, so the stakes are high. Considering precedent in the modern political environment, Republicans are likely to launch legal challenges should any of the legislation in question get through. Mostly, it’s Democrats behind the moves.
They parallel efforts on Capitol Hill in D.C. to get the president’s tax returns. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) issued a request for the president’s last six years of tax returns under an anti-corruption provision of the tax code, but unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has revolted against that duly presented request. They have ignored two successive deadlines Neal set for response, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he’ll need until at least May 6 to present an appropriate response, which is a little over a week in the future. At multiple junctures, the president has said he has no interest in sharing his tax returns with the Ways and Means Committee — but they didn’t ask him.
These pushes aren’t the only ones along these lines. Also at the federal level, House Democrats themselves have sought to enshrine what state leaders across the country have been vying for, including in their recently passed “For the People Act” a demand for presidential and vice presidential candidates from major parties to release a decade of their personal and business tax returns. That legislation is stalled for now considering the Republican majority in the Senate and the obvious slant against that push in the White House, but depending on the 2020 election results, it could still have a chance.
Meanwhile, back down at the state level, New York Democrats recently announced a push to allow state tax returns to be shared with federal authorities. That could get concerned interests the information they want from Trump, since his sprawling business empire is based in New York. Time will tell on that one.
The documents could reveal key information about the president’s potential corruption that’s well outside of the Russia scandal. Sitting publicly before the House Oversight Committee recently, former longtime Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen outlined fraud allegations against the president that have emerged elsewhere and stretch into bank, insurance, and even tax fraud.
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