Executive Power

Trump's Audacious Immunity Claim

His desperate attempt to stop a grand jury from seeing his tax returns invokes kingly powers that would put the president above the law.

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President Donald Trump's desperate attempt to block a New York grand jury subpoena seeking his tax returns, which he once promised to publicly release, makes you wonder anew why he is so keen to prevent anyone from looking at those records, even in secret. But the case also raises the more momentous question of whether presidents have an unqualified right to quash such demands as long as they occupy the White House.

Trump's view, as U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero summarized it last month, is that "the person who serves as President, while in office, enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind." Marrero rejected that claim as "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values." On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit agreed with Marrero.

The subpoena seeking Trump's returns from his accounting firm is part of a probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is investigating hush payments received by two women who say they had sexual relationships with the president before he was elected. Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, is serving a prison sentence for federal crimes related to those payments, and Vance reportedly is curious about whether the scheme also violated a state law prohibiting falsification of business records.

If political foes like Vance are allowed to launch criminal investigations that might implicate Trump, he worries, the proliferation of such probes could have a crippling effect on his presidency. While that concern is hardly frivolous, Trump's audacious solution puts both the president and his cronies above the law at least temporarily and perhaps permanently, depending on statutes of limitation and the impact that the passage of time has on the availability of evidence.

Which brings us, weirdly enough, to Trump's 2016 boast that "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters." If Trump actually committed such a crime while in office, 2nd Circuit Judge Denny Chin wondered during oral argument last month, what recourse would police and prosecutors have?

"Local authorities couldn't investigate?" Chin asked. "Nothing could be done? That is your position?"

Trump's lawyer, William Consovoy, did not hesitate. "That is correct," he said, while noting that Trump could be prosecuted after leaving office.

That position did not sit well with the appeals court, which noted that it seems inconsistent with the relevant precedents. Way back in 1807, Chief Justice John Marshall, while overseeing the treason trial of Vice President Aaron Burr, upheld a subpoena seeking documents from President Thomas Jefferson for use by the defense.

Marshall deemed it "not controverted" that "the president of the United States may be subpoenaed, and examined as a witness, and required to produce any paper in his possession." In 1974, when the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a subpoena directing President Richard Nixon to produce audio recordings and documents for use in the Watergate-related prosecution of senior administration officials, it likewise held that "neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high‐level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances."

The Court reiterated that point in 1997, when it allowed Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton to proceed. "The President is subject to judicial process in appropriate circumstances," it noted.

The Trump case, which the Supreme Court is expected to hear on appeal, is novel in the sense that it involves a local criminal investigation, as opposed to a federal prosecution or a civil lawsuit. But unlike the Nixon case, it does not implicate the president's conversations with his advisers. And unlike both the Nixon and Clinton cases, it does not even involve demands on the president himself.

It is surely possible to address Trump's legitimate concerns about presidential prerogatives without granting him the blanket of protection he seeks. The rule of law requires a more discriminating approach.

© Copyright 2019 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. This is a dilemma for libertarians. On the one hand, hush money is a contractual agreement between two or more parties and none of the state’s interest beyond enforcement. On the other hand, Trump currently isn’t a private citizen but chief executive and attempting to skirt the law, right or wrong. I guess when in doubt you go with the latter on anything Trump.

    1. What law is being skirted? Everyone against trump has claimed this was an election law violation, but that has never covered expenses that occur normally. The Karen McDougal payment is from a decade ago. This is fairly obvious proof these payoffs were a normal thing for Trump and not based on the election. He often had payoffs to women over the course of his career. This makes it literally a non election action based on precedent. NDAs have never been deemed an election expense either.

      There is no legal issue here on regards to elections except those now twisting the law and precedent to criminalize politics.

      1. I basically agree with that analysis, but that doesn’t mean Trump has a valid claim to this sort of immunity. He’s definitely over-reaching here, even if his desire to quash these politically motivated investigations is understandable.

        Personally, I think he would be better off siccing the DOJ on some prominent Democrats, to make clear to them that two can play at this game, and he has more chips to play with.

        That would be a win-win so far as I’m concerned, I long for the day a President decides to play Samson in the temple, and tear the whole rotten structure down with him.

        1. You can’t win the culture war, because most Americans reject conservative backwardness and intolerance . . . so wreck the country?

          Still wondering why you inhabit the can’t-keep-up backwaters of American society and left-behind fringe of American politics?

          1. YAWN!!!!!….Can you at least come up with some new material?

      2. From analysis I’ve seen (possibly here in Reason a while back), the issue with the payment violating campaign finance law is pretty technical and rooted in flexible interpretations of the law.

        Basically, if a prosecutor decides (and could convince a grand jury) that the payment was done with intent of somehow affecting the campaign/election outcome then it’s a “campaign expense” in which case the bookkeeping wasn’t done properly to account for trump essentially giving that money to his campaign (or possibly Cohen having made a loan to the campaign) and therefore there’s a chargeable violation if the payment was ultimately made out of trump’s accounts, and if the payment was made with “campaign” funds then it can be spun as a chargeable offense of trump using that money to cover his own “personal” expenditures.

        Essentially it comes down to the law (as do many many laws) allowing for a motivated prosecutor to make a case that’s at least good enough to get an indictment out of selective interpretation of whatever way the money in question was sourced and accounted for.

        Ironically, depending on how the courts interpret some of the findings that were used in the previous administration to justify the expansion of the drone program (including the targeting of U.S. Citizens without due process), it could be possible for the current president to file a back-dated classified “finding” that would make his shooting of some random person on 5th Avenue technically in compliance with existing precedent and in line with a previously “accepted” version of the power of the executive branch.

        1. IIRC, they didn’t actually have to prove the case against Cohen in an adversarial proceeding. He was persuaded to plead guilty to it by threatening him with prosecution on something else more serious.

          So I don’t really attribute much reliability to his having plead guilty.

          1. I hadn’t meant to make it seem like his plea entered into the calculation that would allow for the possible indictment of trump. It’s all about the fact that the vague statute in combination with a highly permissive grand jury system would allow for the possibility of a prosecutor who sought one being able to indict any version of how the money changed hands as “illegal” simply by altering the subjective claim as to whether or not the payment was related to the campaign.

            The mention of Cohen is related to the claims (and apparent uncertainty) as to whether or not Cohen put up the money himself before recouping it from his client through billing or direct reimbursement. Nothing about the prosecution was really based on that a payment had happened; it was all about the ability of the prosecutors to shift their interpretation of its relation (or non-relation) to the campaign in order to make any version of how it was handled and accounted for into something that would constitute a technical “violation” of an overly vague statue.

    2. President Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to block a New York grand jury subpoena seeking his tax returns, which he once promised to publicly release, makes you wonder anew why he is so keen to prevent anyone from looking at those records, even in secret. But the case also raises the more momentous question of whether presidents have an unqualified right to quash such demands as long as they occupy the White House.

      Vance reportedly is curious about whether the scheme also violated a state law prohibiting falsification of business records.

      1. The qualifications for President are listed in the US Consitution and do NOT include releasing tax returns.

      2. Vance’s “curiousity” is not probable cause and therefore no search warrant shall issue (4th Amendment).

      3. The process for Presidents being subject to criminal law are that he/she needs to be impeached and removed from office first. Since this removal from office wont happen, Trump is not subject to fishing expeditions for tax returns until he leaves office.

      Punitive witch hunts by states because they dont like the President is exactly why it requires a 2/3 majority in the US Senate to remove a sitting President.

      1. “3. The process for Presidents being subject to criminal law are that he/she needs to be impeached and removed from office first.”

        Look, this is at best harassment, but, no, the Constitution doesn’t actually say that Presidents can’t be subject to criminal law prior to being impeached and removed. Rather, what it says is:

        “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.”

        In short, impeaching somebody isn’t a criminal penalty, and so doesn’t invoke the prohibition against double jeopardy.

        The Constitution actually does give Congress some immunity from prosecution, and it’s both explicitly stated, and quite limited. It’s simply not plausible to claim that Presidents get greater immunity by mere implication.

        Presidents have practical immunity from federal prosecution, just because everybody who could prosecute them works for them, and is subject to both Presidential orders and dismissal. They’ve got no immunity from state or local prosecution.

        Maybe they should have it, but the Constitution doesn’t give it to them.

        1. I am definitely leaning on practicality for a state criminally going after a President.

          The President lives in the federal District of Columbia. The President is protected from harm by federal police. The President is in charge of all federal prosecutors and police.

          But you’re correct that the US Constitution does not specify an immunity from arrest (Article I, Section 6) for the President like Congress has. Of course this is an immunity from misdemeanor arrest not criminal indictment, treason, or felonies.

          1. I havent given it much thought as I am sure that the Founders still wanted elections to solve differences not what the Lefties are trying to pull.

            1. The Constitution doesn’t address problems the people who wrote it didn’t anticipate occurring. It simply didn’t occur to them that some state prosecutor would up and decide to open up a legal action against a President just to mess with him.

              OTOH, the idea that somebody might try to influence a vote in the legislature by arresting legislators so they wouldn’t be able to attend? THAT occurred to them, it wasn’t unprecedented at the time.

              Should there be some constitutional provision dealing with this problem? Absolutely. And there’s no freaking way Congress is going to originate the amendment to add it. We’re approaching a civil war, nobody is looking to take away weapons that might have some use.

      2. You may love the constitution. It’s too bad you know nothing about it.

        1. Convincing argument troll. Your citations fell off.

  2. What is Mr. Jacob Sullum’s solution to the naked fishing expedition being conducted by the State of New York?

    1. Pics or it didn’t happen.

    2. Libertarian writers on this site have seem to lost respect for the 4th amendment in cases involving this executive.

      Not sure if chipper has ever given 2 shits about the 4th amendment.

      1. Marrero rejected that claim as “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

        Reason’s writers and all the judges who have heard this case, you mean?

        Tell us, which part of the 4a is NY state violating by investigating a specific crime, seeking specific documents, from a specific person:

        “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

        1. “”Tell us, which part of the 4a is NY state violating by investigating a specific crime, seeking specific documents, from a specific person:””

          What is the specific crime?

          1. Ask Michael Cohen, currently in prison all on his lonesome.

        2. I don’t like De Oppressor Liber and think he is an obnoxious person. A brave whistleblower, who shall remain anonymous, told me that he has engaged in some crimes.

          Therefore, I shall begin an investigation into De Oppressor Liber and subpoena all of his records and private information.

          -Manhattan DA

          1. Did 2 dozen whistleblowers come out and claim that, and did my former former personal attorney go down on charges for a crime that I directed him to commit? No? Then not an apt analogy.

            1. I will give closed door hearsay testimony that YoU did.

      2. To be fair, they’ve lost respect for every amendment in cases involving police officers.

    3. Ahh yes, KevinP bestowing his intelligence upon us that this is just a “fishing expedition.”

      Keep licking the boot.

      1. What did he do that was criminal? How do you define a fishing expedition.

      2. What is the specific crime that Trump has engaged in?

  3. Trump’s argument of absolute immunity worked well for Charles I.
    Hopefully it will work equally well for Trump.

    1. Charles claimed it from Parliament not come local council, which is all the state of NY is.

      1. Marrero rejected that claim as “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

      2. The State of New York is not a “local council”. The States of the Union are sovereign on matters not delegated to the United States in the Constitution. (Not that many years ago, i used to see legal notices in the papers all the time that began with the words “The People of the State of New York, by the Grace of God free and independent, …” I expect that it is the reference to God, and not the reference to independence, that finally ended that practice.)

  4. man nobody cares. this is court intrigue and nothing more

  5. “His desperate attempt to stop a grand jury from seeing his tax returns invokes kingly powers that would put the president above the law.”

    It’s called right to privacy in case Reason has forgotten the concept along with a free market when it supports coercive monopoly government.

  6. Wait….this is nothing more than a ‘fishing expedition’ by the SDNY. I don’t think that is a good precedent to set. ‘Give us the documents, and we’ll find a crime’ is not the kind of precedent we want to be setting. Just remember, the wheel will turn, and it will be someone from Team D in a Team R prosecutors crosshair. By golly, it could even be Crooked Hillary and her sexual predator husband in the docket next.

    If the American people don’t like the fact that POTUS Trump will not release his tax returns, they’ll deal with it at the ballot box. I know that is not the preferred outcome for uber-libs, but I think it would be the best outcome for the country. We the people will deal with this at the ballot box.

    1. ‘Give us the documents, and we’ll find a crime’ is not the kind of precedent we want to be setting.

      This is Reason bub. Rule by unelected technocrats > *

      1. It all reeks of desperation. They fear what will happen in Trump’s second term.

        Stolen from a tweet on Instapundit:

        If one of your friends:

        – spread rape allegations about an innocent man
        – called innocent children racists, and tried to ruin their lives
        – was three years obsessed with a Russian conspiracy theory
        – protected actual pedophiles

        Would you trust them?

        Then why the fuck do you trust the media?

        1. Also stolen:

          “Remember when the entire media had a panic attack over Trumps comments on the Access Hollywood tape?
          While this was going on, those very same people knew that Epstein was raping children… and decided to cover it up.”

    2. There are specific crimes. Just ask Trump’s former former personal attorney, who is in federal prison for the crimes he committed at Trump’s direction.

      “The subpoena seeking Trump’s returns from his accounting firm is part of a probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is investigating hush payments received by two women who say they had sexual relationships with the president before he was elected. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, is serving a prison sentence for federal crimes related to those payments, and Vance reportedly is curious about whether the scheme also violated a state law prohibiting falsification of business records.”

      1. It’s pretty simple: I find proof your personal attorney committed some random, but serious crime. He’s a pretty skeevy guy, so it isn’t hard; At worst, I can promise to bankrupt him with legal expenses, I’ve got an unlimited budget, and he doesn’t.

        But I don’t really want him, I want you. So I offer him a plea deal: Plead guilty to committing a crime together with you, and I’ll drop the more serious charges.

        See, the nice thing about this, is that I don’t need to be able to prove what he’s pleading guilty to, because he IS pleading guilty. And you don’t get to defend against the charges in court, because I didn’t charge you.

        So I get to go around telling everybody that your attorney plead guilty to committing a crime with you, and you’ve got no way to stop me.

        1. Except we know the facts. We know that Trump directed Cohen to use his own funds and then get reimbursed by Trump, to avoid a paper trail. We know the payoff happened. We know Trump did not declare it. We know all these things. So, you can keep making hypotheticals, but what is known and proven is already known and proven.

  7. He should just put his tax returns in his presidential library so they are beyond any scrutiny. Libertarians are cool with that.

  8. But SOCIALISM! And obviously Trump can do no wrong, so any investigation is by definition a witch hunt fishing expedition. #LibertariansForAbsoluteMonarchy

    If Trump supporting Republicans don’t think it’s a crime, it’s not. It’s the Libertarian way.

    1. But ORANGE MAN! And obviously prosecutors and the US intelligence community can do no wrong, so any investigation is by definition a noble pursuit of justice. #LibertariansForKhakistocracy

      If Trump hating Democrats think it’s a crime, it is. It’s the Libertarian way.

      1. And hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.

        1. I once did a microarmor recreation of Calais ’40 and used that for the scenario title

    2. Wow what a stupid take that proves a lack of education or knowledge.

    3. What crime is involved? He supposedly paid them from his own money.

      1. They don’t need eight years of his tax returns for that. It might be more successful if Trump argued that the request is overly broad and beyond the scope.

        Unless they have other charges they are looking at. But all I’ve heard so far is the payments to the ladies. Which isn’t illegal.

      2. Is the SDNY doing this an improper campaign contribution to a Dem? I heard investigating corruption is illegal if somebody is running for office now.

    4. It’s bad enough that the Reason crowd swings from Trump’s D, but the worst part is that they not only won’t speak out about the death of the GOP (it’s now the Trump Party), but they’re ok with it.

      1. Flesh is all word salads today with Hillarys dick in his coders mouth.

  9. So now Reason is pro the use of the third party doctrine to obtain legally confidential documents. Does this extend to medical records as well?

  10. I don’t see what the problem is – grand jury testimony is secret, isn’t it? Just make Cy Vance sign for the tax returns and make him liable for maintaining the confidentiality of the documents. Anything leaks and it’s his ass on the line. I’m sure he’d be cool with that, right?

  11. “If Trump hasn’t done anything wrong what does he have to hide”?

  12. If Vance needs these documents, doesn’t that imply that the NY Department of Taxation is not doing its job considering they audit the shit out of Trump’s return.

    1. Apparently the NY Department of Taxation wasn’t willing to leak them.

    2. If Taxation authorities found no errors, then the release of Trump’s tax documents is not to further any interest in justice but simply to embarrass Trump by revealing, say, that his wealth isn’t as great and yuge as he claims or that his percentage of income paid in taxes is less than some maid who cleans floors in the Trump Tower.

      1. “or that his percentage of income paid in taxes is less than some maid who cleans floors in the Trump Tower.”

        As well it should be: The maid receives far greater state services relative to her income than Trump does. If they both walk into McDonalds, she’ll pay a higher percentage of her income for a Big Mac, too.

        1. You really think the maid getting social security or even welfare compares to the benefits of the state that a supposed billionaire receives? What is all that military action for, if not to enhance the bottom line of America’s ownership class?

          You really want to endorse regressive taxation?

          1. “”You really want to endorse regressive taxation?””‘

            I doubt Brett does. But liberals love it.

            1. Brett just suggested a regressive tax. That just happened.

          2. Tolerant and inclusive progressive alert!

            1. How so? A flat tax is one thing, but suggesting lower income people should pay a higher percentage is bonkers.

              1. I think people should get what they pay for, and pay for what they get. That’s justice, in the eyes of a member of the Bourgeoisie, which I am.

                I don’t give a fig about percentages. If Trump and I walk into a McDonalds, and we both order a Big Mac, that might be 0.1% of my monthly income, (Winging it.) and 0.0001% of his, and that’s perfectly fair, because we’re both buying the same burger. There’s no justice in charging him $5K for a burger just because he’s wealthier than me. That would be committing a terrible injustice against him, even if he could afford it.

                Now, both because some people earn very little, and because the government spends way too much, some people simply can’t afford to pay for their share of government. Not even their share of the amount of government *I’d* think was proper, which is a lot less than we’ve actually got. And that means other people must end up paying MORE than their share. And that’s not justice in the eyes of the Bourgeoisie.

                But the Bourgeoisie understand charity, and if it isn’t carried further than necessary, it may be considered charity.

                But you want to carry it a lot further than is actually necessary, because you don’t have a Bourgeoisie sense of justice, you just see people like Trump as walking piggy banks you’re entitled to raid.

                And then expect people to admire you for it, perversely.

                1. Your point is valid, but some of us believe the govt should have part in charity, period. Look where it’s gotten us.

                  1. Sorry, no part in charity.

          3. I said in proportion.

            She makes $50k a year, and gets $30K in government services. (I joke, it’s likely more like $60K.)

            Trump makes $50M a year, and gets $1M in government services.

            So her taxes, if they were going to pay for what she gets, would be something like 100% of her pay, and his something like 2%, even though he’s getting more services.

  13. As long as Trump didn’t do anything illegal then why do we care about his tax returns? I’m not a Trumper, but if I was him I would do whatever I could at this stage to prevent their release because it would keep my name in the news and distract people from shit and it would show that I’m a boss because I’m not going to do shit I am not legally required to do. Once you look into what his kids made when they started running the businesses you can see that Trump was making some damn good pocket change.

    If he did illegal shit then the IRS would already have nabbed him. Why do we care?

    1. He is trolling Lefties.

      He is always trolling Lefties.

      Trump does not even do his own taxes! He has teams of tax professional do them.

      Trump is just not releasing them because he doesn’t have to and it drives Lefties crazy. The fact that New Yorkers are not complaing how much money is being spent to get Trump’s tax returns is on those dipshit state residents.

      1. Yep. And CPAs put a little sticker on the return that says “Sign here”.

    2. “If he did illegal shit then the IRS would already have nabbed him. Why do we care?”

      This might not be the case. The IRS’s interest is that you paid the taxes you owe to the government. If in the course of accumulating that money you did something illegal, the IRS may not be involved. That is what the NY prosecutors are looking at here. In most cases like this you would see lawyers of both parties seeking a compromise and you might even see a judge pressuring for that compromise. What is therefore interesting is the President’s lawyers going to the wall to avoid disclosure. That is not an admission of guilt but it certainly raises eyebrows.

      1. It’s no more an admission of guilt than Obama going to court to block the release of his birth certificate.

        In that case, it wasn’t that it showed something damaging, it was just that he could keep his foes attention on someplace he knew quite well they’d never find anything damaging. And that he was an asshole, of course.

        Same factors here: If Trump knows for an absolute fact there’s nothing incriminating in his taxes, it’s actually a smart move to fight their release. His enemies only have so much in the way of resources to deploy, why not make them waste their time?

        1. When did President Obama go to court to seal records of his birth certificate? I think you are in error.

          1. He spent 36 million dollars hiding records of his administration, prevented the release of his academic transcripts and publication history, and has hidden away tens of thousands of pages of public documents in his presidential library in order to conceal them from public scrutiny.

            1. He did not release his academic records, but he did nothing to “prevent” their release. Academic records are confidential by default. Likewise with his birth certificate. His administration did block a bunch of foia’s, but none of that had to do with Obama’s personal records.

          2. His foes went to court to get a look at it, and rather than say, “Sure, whatever.”, he opposed them.

            1. You are little all over the place here so lets get focused. You said President Obama went to court to block access to his birth certificate. When did that happen? I certainly don’t remember the case.

      2. Subpoenaing his tax returns alone would not show he did something illegal. His paying off someone to keep quiet isn’t illegal either. It is questionable at best if he claimed it as a campaign expense if that is even a crime.

          1. Michael Cohen is a fool who took advice from a partisan Democrat attorney and pled guilty to something that was not a crime.

            But it’s good to see you admit that putting your political opponents in prison at any cost is what you desire.

            Two can play that game.

            1. I desire the rule of law to be upheld. You and your ilk are the ones suggesting Trump is above investigation.

            2. I doubt he was foolish to do that. More likely they had him dead to rights on something worse, but unrelated to Trump, and offered to bury the worse charges if he’d implicate Trump by pleading guilty to something bogus.

              Because that is the way people like Mueller swing.

              1. You must have extraordinary evidence to make such a claim, yes?

      3. Of course the IRS is involved. They too audit the shit out of Trump’s tax returns. It wasn’t the accumulation of money at, it was a disbursement.

      4. Resisting state overreach is “raising eyebrows”? Can you even spell “libertarian”?

  14. “. . .makes you wonder anew why he is so keen to prevent anyone from looking at those records, even in secret.”

    Because he knows damn well they won’t stay secret. They will be leaked by the usual suspects, and even if they are prosecuted for it (they won’t be) the records are still outed.

    Trump is a lot of things, but he isn’t stupid.

    1. give ten people the same tax return and you will get ten different answers and thats a big reason to not release them and even if they are perfect the media will make up something.

  15. How pathetic must you be to support this coward who is so smart and rich but you can’t see his returns, that he promised to release anyhow?

    Nothing but a sniveling little girl and all his followers just poor poor saps.

    1. Because some people actually believe in the 4 amendment? I know, principles are hard for some people.

      1. Or in other words, the prosecutor is subpoenaing the records to see if there was something illegal done, not because they have evidence of wrong doing, but to see if they can find evidence. I’m sure you would be okay with the cops showing up at your house with a warrant to search your house just to see if you have done anything illegal.

        1. He has nothing to hide and libertarians have always said police should have carte blanche to investigate the innocent and guilty both.

    2. “How pathetic must you be to support this coward who is so smart and rich but you can’t see his returns, that he promised to release anyhow?”

      John Kerry’s DD-214 is also still hidden. C’est la vie.

    3. ” that he promised to release anyhow?”

      IIRC, Trump from the beginning of his campaign leading into the 2016 election consistently refused to publicly release his tax returns. When exactly did he promise to release them and can you produce a cite to back up that claim?

      1. I seem to recall him conditionally agreeing to release them if Hillary did something. I took it more as an offhanded jab against her, but I do seem to recall such a claim that he’d release them

      2. As late as september 2016, he was promising to release his returns.

        https://money.cnn.com/2017/04/17/news/donald-trump-tax-returns/index.html

        1. That link doesn’t really support your claim.

          A lot of maybe, we’ll see, we are working on that, probably, depends.

          I did not see anything that said he promised to release them.

          1. You’re right, as late as January 2017, Trump staff promised the tax returns would be released.

            JANUARY 23, 2017:

            Conway clarifies her comments with a tweet: “On taxes, answers (& repeated questions) are same from campaign: POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed.”

            If you need it from him personally, here you go:

            SEPTEMBER 27, 2016:

            Trump says during the first presidential debate that his taxes will be released once an audit is finished.

            “I don’t mind releasing. I’m under a routine audit, and it will be released. As soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released,” he said.

            1. Yeah, that was a bit tricky of him, knowing that he’s under perpetual audit and all.

      3. Oh, and he lied about being under audit and was using that as the excuse for not immediately releasing them, as every single other candidate has since 1974.

        1. Before Obama, candidates routinely released their grades from school.

          I guess traditions get broken.

          1. So you support the lowering of standards. Great for you, terrible for us.

    4. Trump is a Reason reader’s (incel’s) version of what a rich man is like.

  16. The President is subject to judicial process in appropriate circumstances. Therefore, his must be compelled by the courts to release his tax returns.

    What again, dare I ask, are the appropriate circumstances? Ah, curiosity, it seems. “If you have nothing to hide, villain, why hide it?”

    Cy Vance’s suspicions and curiosities are not a basis for anything. Imagine that precedent, committed libertarians, as some of you claim to be, where prosecutors can demand access to all your financial filings and tax records not because they have evidence of criminal conduct, but because they are merely “curious.”

    The entire episode is political hogwash. Trump should not relent and, if necessary, take it to SCOTUS. If these political hacks want his tax returns – well, they better be prepared to enforce these orders. The “libertarians” here never seem for a moment concerned that, if this is what a duly elected President can be subjected to, their liberties as private individuals are meaningless.

  17. Our tax returns are nobody else’s business unless we choose to make them so. That applies to everyone, not merely those whom we like.

    1. There may be cases where your tax returns are relevant and so could be examined. I am thinking of a court judgement where the winning side requests the returns to get an accurate idea of a person wealth to help enforce the judgement. I am not a lawyer and would invite any reading to comment on this matter?

      1. What judgment is against Trump to where his wealth needs to be assessed to enforce the judgment?

    2. “”That applies to everyone, not merely those whom we like.””

      So much this.

    3. If you run for president, you are going to have to accept increased scrutiny. Just as a soldier gives up many constitutional rights for the honor to serve, so must the president. I do not think that is unreasonable. Every candidate, other than Trump, has been able to release their tax returns since 1974. Trump is the one asserting he is special. Not the other way around.

      1. “”Every candidate, other than Trump, has been able to release their tax returns since 1974. “‘

        So. There is no requirement.

        1. Glad to see how low your standards are. I guess when it’s your guy, who cares amiright?!

      2. You can work on adding this requirement to the Constitution. Until then, it isn’t required.

        1. There a whole lot of standards I think presidents should be held to that aren’t in the constitution. The constitution doesn’t demand that the president wear pants when he meets with other heads of state, but I expect him to. Fuck me, right?

          1. So you would legally prohibit a president from wearing a dress, or a kilt? Kind of sexist of you, is it not?

            1. I’ll have my staffer fill in the details. I’m sure they will nail it down.

      3. “Every candidate, other than Trump, has been able to release their tax returns since 1974. Trump is the one asserting he is special. Not the other way around.”

        I checked the qualifications for being President again.

        STILL nothing about tax returns.

        1. Remember when people, especially libertarians, would at least notice when a president told a lie? I do.

          1. So, Trump’s pants are on fire. Boo hoo. He will still take 2020.

      4. So it is mere custom, and a late developing one at that. Perhaps it never should have been a custom.

      5. So what? Where is the “rule of law” here? Trump voters don’t give a damn about tax return tradition. The Cohen issue is hearsay. Try again.

  18. And Sullum makes the “why not release the documents if you have nothing to hide” argument that libertarians would normally consider a howler under any privacy case not involving Trump.

    1. Sullum has principles.

      Sure he does.

      1. He does.

        Libertarian ones though? No.

        1. Sullum is just padding his resume with articles like this.
          If you can’t prove your bien pensant bonafides, you won’t get that cushy column with the Times or New Yorker.

          1. Fortunately, print media is dying. Ha ha ha.

            #LearntoCode

  19. On the other hand, narcissists gotta narce.

  20. Not sure what the tax returns would show, anyway, not without the underlying accounting. Don’t know about any of you, but my tax return is just a bunch of numbers showing up on the appropriate lines absent the underlying justification for why something is listed as ‘unreimbursed business expense’ vs. ‘charity donation’.

    Also, am I the only one who thinks the argument that the President has blanket immunity from prosecution while in office makes sense? To the point where I always thought it was actually in the constitution per my 12th grade civics class many, many years ago.

  21. Trump’s tax returns have been a white whale for the Democrats since he decuded he was bit going to release them after all. California changed their election law specifically so he had to release them to the California government in order to run in the state but were rebuffed by the courts. This grand jury inquiry seems to be another way to game legal procedure to satisfy this obsession. Trump is perhaps fighting a prosecutor gaming the grand jury system for partisan ends with a bad argument. That does not mean that Vance’s investigation is not corrupt.

  22. Assuming the grand jury gets Trump’s tax returns, we should start a pool on how long it takes for them to be leaked. Closest nanosecond wins.

    1. Four nanoseconds….I figure that is how it takes for speed dial to connect.

  23. I think Trump is playing ‘rope-a-dope’ here, using the same strategy Obama did with his birth certificate. He lets his opponents make themselves look ridiculous by making a big deal out of something that turns out to be nothing.

    If there was anything incriminating in Trump’s tax returns, Obama’s IRS would have leaked them during the election.

  24. Lame Duck President Herbert Hoover issued an Executive order allowing State Income Tax looters to examine federal tax returns of corporations–never tried since Wilson backed away from it–in late January 1933. Thirty-two days later every bank in the nation was closed BEFORE the FDR ban on gold, 30-pounds-of-gold fine and prison terms decree on Inauguration Day. This is in “Prohibition and The Crash” and the Hoover papers. Illinois declared its income tax unconstitutional just in time to avoid the trap.

  25. Ok Clone.

  26. Have you never read the Constitution?
    Let’s start this conversation with the law…

    What makes you think President Trump is obligated to share his tax returns with ANYONE outside the IRS. Moreover, President Trump is being audited now.

    Is Reason magazine REQUIRED by Government to have contrived Constitutional ignorant Liberals as writers?

  27. The appearance is that this grand jury request is part of a grand scheme to harrass the president at evey conceivable juncture.

    Trump is not the president I would have chosen. But he, like every president, should not be subjected to constant harassement whose motivations may well be political.

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