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Newt: Republican Judges Are Lawless Hacks

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Newt says Trump will ignore the law and the courts will back him up:

A 1924 law gives Congress the power to scrutinize the federal income tax returns of any taxpayer. Democrats in Congress have proposed numerous motions to examine Donald Trump’s returns, given his numerous conflicts of interest. The Republican majority has quashed every attempt. If Democrats win control of either chamber of Congress, they will get a chance to examine the president’s income tax returns.

Not so fast, says Newt Gingrich. In an interview with Karen Tumulty, the former House Speaker and energetic Trump defender insists Trump has nothing to fear from congressional oversight in general. Asked about the tax returns, Gingrich casually batted down the possibility: “Then they’ll be trapped into appealing to the Supreme Court. And we’ll see whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it.”

It is worth noting that the law enabling Congress to scrutinize Trump’s tax returns is totally clear. It enables Congress to look at the returns of any taxpayer. It has been previously used without challenge to look at conflicts of interest for a Treasury secretary (Andrew Mellon) and a president (Richard Nixon.) I have read several stories referencing this law, and none of them has found a law professor, or anybody at all, who has challenged either its general Constitutionality or its specific application to Trump. The conservative legal movement has not developed any theory that would lay the groundwork to support Trump if he fights this.

Chait is optimistic that he’s wrong. And…maybe he is. Black letter law really does matter, and generally judges will apply relatively determinate law even if it produces a result they don’t like. But judges will sometimes let their preferences trump clear law if they feel strongly enough. Would a decision saying that the statute authorizing Congress to examine tax returns can’t be applied to Trump on vague separation of powers grounds be worse than the decision gutting the Voting Rights Act based on an ad hoc “equal sovereign dignitude” argument? Not really. The question is whether the Roberts gang feels as strongly about protecting Trump as they do about protecting Republican vote suppression efforts, and there’s really no way of knowing at this point.

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