Court Battles

Trump, RNC sue to block California law requiring release of tax returns

President Trump and the Republican National Committee (RNC) on Tuesday filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court in California, opposing a new state law that would require Trump to release his tax returns.

The law, signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last week, requires that presidential and gubernatorial candidates provide five years of federal tax returns from the most recent taxable years to the California secretary of state in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

Trump refused to release his tax returns during his 2016 presidential bid, rejecting decades of precedent. He is already engaged in a pair of lawsuits concerning the potential release of his federal and New York state tax returns to Democrats in Congress.{mosads}

The RNC lawsuit alleges that the law is “a naked political attack against the sitting President of the United States.”

And the complaint filed by Trump and his campaign claims that “Newsom and the Democrats in the California legislature who voted for it made clear that they were retaliating against President Trump for his political associations and speech.”

Both lawsuits argue that the law is unconstitutional and are seeking an injunction to block it.

The legal challenges are not unexpected — Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had promised to go to court to fight the rule when Newsom signed it, as did the Trump campaign.

“The issue of whether the President should release his federal tax returns was litigated in the 2016 election and the American people spoke,” Sekulow said in a statement Tuesday. “The effort to deny California voters the opportunity to cast a ballot for President Trump in 2020 will clearly fail. Legal scholars from across the political spectrum have roundly condemned this flagrantly illegal statute. We are confident the courts will as well.”

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that “it certainly doesn’t bode well for Democrats heading into 2020 that their best bet for beating President Trump is to deny millions of Californians the ability to vote for him.” 

“This stunt by Democrats is unconstitutional and, simply put, desperate,” she added.

The lawsuits both argue that the California law violates the First Amendment and qualifications clause in the Constitution. The RNC lawsuit also alleges that the law violates the 14th Amendment, and Trump’s lawsuit claims that the law is preempted by the Ethics and Government Act, which requires presidential candidates to submit financial-disclosure reports. 

The RNC is joined in its lawsuit by the California Republican Party and several voters in the state. 

Both complaints name California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) as a defendant. The RNC complaint also names Newsom as a defendant, while the Trump campaign names California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) as a defendant in addition to Padilla.

“The Act subverts the franchise for cheap political gain, creates an extra-constitutional qualification for the office of President, and effectively disenfranchises voters by denying their right to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and effectively cast a vote for the otherwise qualified candidate of their choosing,” the Republican complaint argues.

And it says that the law will “directly impede President Trump’s ability to obtain the support of California’s delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention, secure the Republican nomination for President, and appear on the 2020 General Election Ballot in all 50 states.”

Trump’s complaint makes similar arguments, saying that the law imposes additional qualifications in order to run for president. It points to previous Supreme Court rulings that held that the “exclusive qualifications for federal office” are the ones already laid out in the Constitution.

Both lawsuits note that Newsom’s Democratic predecessor, Jerry Brown, vetoed an earlier version of the California tax-return law in 2017, saying it might not be constitutional.

When Newsom signed the law, his office released statements from legal experts who argued that the law is constitutional.

The lawsuits come one day after the conservative group Judicial Watch announced that it is representing four California voters who filed a lawsuit last week over the tax-return law.

The legal challenges to the California law aren’t the only lawsuits pending in the fight over Trump’s tax returns. 

Last month, the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in federal court in D.C., asking the court to require the Treasury Department and IRS to comply with its requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. 

Additionally, Trump has filed a lawsuit in federal court in D.C. against the Ways and Means Committee and New York officials, challenging a New York law that allows the chairs of Congress’s tax committees to request officials’ state tax returns.

Updated at 2:10 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Jay Sekulow Ronna McDaniel Xavier Becerra
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