Almost three years after moving into the White House, President Donald Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns, claiming, falsely, that an audit prevents him from doing so but that the public would see them just as soon as he got the green light. Of course, we all know he will never release his taxes voluntarily.
Trump has sicced his Treasury secretary, attorney general, and various personal lawyers on anyone attempting to get their hands on the information, in a manner suggesting the details within could make a person look quite bad. Typically, Trump’s attorneys have argued that such requests, like the ones from various House committees, constitute “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” or supposedly lack “a legitimate legislative purpose.”
On Thursday, however, Trump and his legal team came up with a novel new argument: “It’s illegal to investigate a sitting president for any crimes he may have committed.”
In a lawsuit filed today against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who recently subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns to determine if the Trump Organization falsified business records relating to Stormy Daniels payments, the president’s lawyers claim such a request is unconstitutional because the founding fathers believed sitting presidents should not be subject to the criminal process.
“The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the president to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the suit reads. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the president from his constitutional duties.”
Strangely, actual legal experts aren’t entirely convinced of this argument. “Even assuming that the president cannot be indicted while in office, it does not follow that his business and associates are likewise immune from investigation,” Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg. “The complaint makes light of the idea that ruling in their favor would elevate the president above the law, but it certainly seems as if the president views himself as above the law.”
Vance, who agreed not to enforce the subpoena—issued to Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA—until a scheduled September 25 hearing, is investigating if executives at the Trump Organization filed false business records concerning hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claim to have had affairs with Trump, charges he, naturally, denies. The president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, admitted to arranging the hush money payments and released audio of him discussing the Daniels payment with Trump.
Thursday’s lawsuit is just one of a handful of attempts by the president to keep his totally legit finances secret. He’s also sued to block House Democrats’ demands for his tax returns and is seeking a court order to stop Congress from obtaining his New York state returns, which a recently passed law allows them to do.
It’s almost as though someone has got something to hide!
CORRECTION: A third party fact-check determined that Donald Trump didn’t say “my crimes” can’t be investigated while he is still President. According to the fact-checker, “a tweet erroneously interpreted a Vanity Fair headline that was paraphrasing an argument from Trump’s lawyers as a direct quote from Trump himself.”