Does President Donald Trump deserve privacy when it comes to his personal tax returns? One federal judge says yes.
In what can only be described as a win for Trump, a California judge has temporarily blocked the state’s effort to require candidates to release their tax returns as a condition for landing a spot on the primary ballot, according to the Los Angeles Times.
California gets the red light
U.S. District Judge Morrison England, Jr. issued a temporary injunction on the matter in light of the fact that implementation of the requirement would cause “irreparable harm without temporary relief” for a number of plaintiffs who’d filed suit, the most prominent of which was President Trump.
The law would have required prospective presidential and gubernatorial candidates in California to hand over the past five years of tax returns in order to be eligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot each March, with a deadline of Nov. 26 to submit the records. The law would not apply to any other candidates for office and would have had no bearing on any candidate’s eligibility to appear on the general election ballot in 2020.
But Judge England noted during the hearing that there is already a federal financial disclosure law in effect regarding candidates’ financial status, the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, adding that the federal disclosure law preempts and renders moot the state law.
The judge also appeared to accept arguments from plaintiffs that the law, if allowed to stand, could lead to other states similarly imposing their own eligibility requirements for ballot access — such as medical records or college transcripts, among many other things — and asked rhetorically: “Wouldn’t that create a hodgepodge of laws around the country?”
Changing the law?
Indeed, it would — which was by and large the primary argument of the attorneys representing Trump, who asserted that the U.S. Constitution had already laid out the minimum requirements necessary for an American citizen to run for the presidency, which states had no right to alter or add to.
Furthermore, the attorneys for Trump — as well as other parties fighting against the law — also argued that the effort to keep Trump off the primary ballot (which is essentially all this law was ever really about) would have a detrimental impact on other Republicans running for down-ticket offices in the state, as Trump’s absence from the ballot would depress turnout among his Republican supporters.
With the temporary injunction now in place, Judge England said that he would make his final ruling on the matter by the end of the month. California Attorney General Alex Padilla told the Times that he would await that final ruling before deciding if an appeal would be pursued.
Trump wins – for now
There is no denying that this California law was solely intended to either force President Trump to release his private tax returns or keep him off the primary ballot, which, as explained above, would prove beneficial to Democrats in the state’s “jungle primary” style of elections in which the top two candidates in a primary — regardless of party — move on to face off in the general election.
Ironically, however, not a single one of the several Democratic 2020 candidates have complied with the law and turned over their tax records to California as of yet, meaning that, had the injunction not been issued by the judge, at least some of those Democrats could have found themselves left off the crucial primary ballot as well.
It will be interesting to see how the judge rules when he issues his final opinion, and regardless of which side he comes down it, that ruling will assuredly be appealed by one side or the other. For the moment, though, it would appear the Constitution and the law is on Trump’s side.