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Lawless Party Defends Lawless President


Some more examples of Republicans — including one prominent “Never Trump” [sic] conservative — arguing that Trump is right to defy black-letter law and keep his tax returns from Congress:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply stated, “While his taxes continue to be under audit, he doesn’t anticipate that changing at any point anytime soon, and therefore doesn’t have any intention to release those returns.” Trump’s tax returns may or may not be under audit, but in any case, this has no bearing on a law allowing Congress to examine them.

Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, defended Trump’s defiance of the law in terms that made up in emotional intensity what they lacked in any legal basis. “[Democrats] dislike him with a passion, and they want his tax returns to destroy him,” Grassley said. “That’s all that this whole process is about, and it’s Nixonian to the core.”

These are not good reasons, but they are reasons, and it’s worth considering their meaning. It is surely true that Democrats in congress dislike Trump. However, that has no bearing on their standing to exercise a right to which the law entitles them unambiguously.

More interestingly, Grassley asserts that obtaining Trump’s tax filings would “destroy him.” It’s startling that Grassley believes not only that the information in Trump’s tax returns is so devastating it would destroy him, but that the proper response is to prevent this ruinous information from being made available to Congress or the public.

National Review’s David French concedes that Congress has a legal right to the tax returns while devoting almost the entirety of his argument to the proposition that the law is terrible and Trump is correct to defy it. His stated concern is not Trump, but the poor average taxpayer who might be targeted by meanies in Congress: “They can have your return, my return, or any political enemy’s return.”


Last year, the New York Times examined state records and found a decades-long pattern of massive tax fraud by Trump and his father, in addition to the devastating revelation that Trump inherited at least $400 million. Other reporters have found extensive evidence that Trump’s income comes from abetting money laundering or dealing with criminals and dictators.

This would help explain the unusual diligence the president has applied toward this problem. The Times reported recently that Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to speedily confirm his handpicked IRS chief counsel, Michael J. Desmond, even prioritizing his confirmation ahead of Attorney General William Barr. Trump generally takes little interest in the internal workings of government — his Defense Secretary resigned three and a half months ago, and Trump has taken no evident steps toward finding a replacement. He clearly cares a lot about having loyalists staffing the IRS.

And with the Roberts Court being what it is they may well get away with it.

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