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Politicians Should Not Have Access to ANYONE’s Tax Returns

July 2, 2019, 9:36 am

Since Richard Nixon weaponized the IRS against his enemies, by mining their tax returns for information he could use against them and calling down onerous audits on them, I thought it was an established principle of liberal democracy in this country that tax returns could not be used politically.  The only people who are supposed to have access to them are people who have legitimate enforcement responsibilities for tax collection.  That means the President and his staff can’t rifle through them, and I thought those rules applied to Congress as well.

However, the Democrats in the House of Representatives, who mostly grew up excoriating Nixon’s excesses, are now arguing the House should have access to any tax return they wish for any reason.  Of course, this is all playing out vis a vis Donald Trump.  From the WSJ:

The House’s tax-writing committee sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday for access to President Trump’s tax returns, hoping federal judges will pry loose records that the administration has refused to hand over.

The lawsuit from the House Ways and Means Committee puts the clash over Mr. Trump’s tax returns and audit records in the courts, exactly where Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D., Mass.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchinhave predicted for months that it would land.

Mr. Neal is asking the courts to enforce a subpoena that Mr. Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig have defied and produce the records immediately. The chairman also wants the courts to validate his authority under a tax code section that says he can get any taxpayer’s returns upon request.

Trump’s lawyers are likely to argue Presidential privilege, but I hope the defense goes beyond this.  We all should be protected against individuals in Congress conducting fishing expeditions of their political opponents’ tax returns.  And this is a fishing expedition, pure and simple.   There is no probably cause or any investigation that credibly needs to inspect some part of the returns.  Congress just wants them so they can fish for ammunition they can use in their political battles against Trump.

Trump is a pain in the *ss as President not just for his irritating demeanor and counter-productive economic nationalism, but also because liberals can’t stop themselves from setting illiberal precedents in their desire to bring him down.

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