California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a bill on Tuesday, July 30 that requires President Donald Trump to release his tax returns to the public if he wants to appear on the state’s primary ballot next year.
“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest,” Newsom, a staunch opponent of Trump, wrote in a statement after signing the bill.
Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president, said in a statement that “the State of California’s attempt to circumvent the Constitution will be answered in court,” according to Fox News.
Tim Murtaugh, an official with Trump’s 2020 campaign, said the law was unconstitutional.
“The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” Murtaugh said in a statement. “What’s next, five years of health records?”
Trump administration officials have said that Trump does not have to release his tax returns.
Senate Bill 27, or the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, requires candidates for president of the United States and governor of California to file copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2017, reported CBS Sacramento, writing that it would sit a “‘slippery slope precedent.”
“Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power? A qualified candidate’s ability to appear on the ballot is fundamental to our democratic system,” he wrote.
“For that reason, I hesitate to start down a road that well might lead to an ever-escalating set of differing state requirements for presidential candidates.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) had issued a subpoena earlier this year to try to force the administration to turn over the past six years of Trump’s returns but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused, saying that the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” as Supreme Court precedent requires, and that the Justice Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in a 33-page legal opinion (pdf) in June said that because the confidentiality of tax returns is protected under the law, Mnuchin did not violate the law in refusing the subpoena.
The legal opinion stated that federal law “protecting [the] confidentiality of tax returns [had] prohibited the Department of the Treasury from complying with a request by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for the president’s tax returns.”
It also added that Neal had wanted to make the president’s tax returns public which is not a legitimate legislative function.
“The Chairman’s request that Treasury turn over the President’s tax returns, for the apparent purpose of making them public, amounted to an unprecedented use of the Committee’s authority and raised a serious risk of abuse,” the opinion said.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.