News media pushes the idea of President Obama demanding and releasing Donald Trump’s tax returns, without his permission

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The death of freedom and the rule of law: A Politico reporter — having researched the law and found that under very special circumstances a president has the authority to demand from the IRS the confidential tax records of any American citizen and then release them to the public without that citizen’s permission — made sure to let White House spokesman Josh Earnest know about those provisions.

Earnest response was amazingly non-committal. “I’ve not heard of this potential option. I think it is rather unlikely that the president would order something like that.”

In reading the story at the link, it seems to me that Earnest had no idea the law allowed the President to do this. However, the Politico reporter had done his research very well, and outlined that research in great detail, describing in chapter-and-verse how it would be legal for a President to abuse his power in just this way.

Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code provides: “Upon written request by the President, signed by him personally, the [Treasury] Secretary shall furnish to the President, or to such employee or employees of the White House Office as the President may designate by name in such request, a return or return information with respect to any taxpayer named in such request.”

Another passage in the law says returns obtained that way should not be further disclosed “without personal written direction of the President,” suggesting that with such an instruction the returns could be made public by the government.

I don’t know what is worse, the fact that Earnest doesn’t seem horrified by the suggestion, or the fact that it was a reporter who suggested it. Either way, my impression here is that the reporter’s goal was not to catch the Obama administration in an abuse of power but to educate the White House so that they would be aware of this wonderful method for using the law to destroy their political opponents.

Think about it. The reporter here seems to be actually advocating that a President abuse his power and obtain and release a citizen’s confidential tax returns, without the citizen’s permission, entirely for the sole purpose of political gain. Considering the IRS’s track record under the Obama administration, where the IRS clearly acted as a tool of the Democratic Party and harassed its political opponents, it would not surprise me now if this proposal eventually gets acted upon by this or future presidents.

I weep for America and the death of freedom.


  • Des

    Why is Trump so scared to publish his tax returns like every other candidate of the last 40 years and like he said he was going to during the primaries?

  • Des: I am not discussing Trump. If you’ve read my webpage for any length of time, you would know that I am hardly one of his fans. This post is entirely about the increasing acceptance by Americans of the use of political power by politicians to destroy their enemies. Your comment itself proves my point. Rather than express outrage and horror at the idea that, merely for political gain, a president could actually demand any citizen’s confidential IRS files — even your files — and release them to the public without that citizen’s permission, you instead focus on Trump and the possibility that there may be justification for such an abuse of power.

    I don’t just fear that Obama could do this. I fear that Trump could do it as well. Or Clinton. Any one of them might, simply because too many ordinary Americans, like you, no longer are outraged by the abuse of power in Washington.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    Trump should say he’ll release his 2015 tax return as soon as the Clinton Foundation does so.

  • Phill O

    Better yet, when the deleted e-mails appear.

    I get Bob’s point though. That is the real problem; loss of freedom.

    In fact, it is so bad, Hillary seems to get a pass where friends (who have been in jobs requiring security clearance) indicate they would have been fired for similar stuff and been sitting in prison. The fact that so many are Hillary supporters does not bode well with the general American mindset. The final outcome will be pretty much 50-50. This means that 50% of the population have no moral fiber. Luckily for me, I have a place where basic decent people live (for the most part) and outrage over the double standard is high.

  • Steve Earle

    The IRS still exists because it is a useful means of control of the masses. If the IRS was abolished and a national sales tax or some sort of flat tax were enacted it is my understanding that revenues would actually increase.

    The fact that both sides want to keep the IRS as is tells me that they are both invested in control as opposed to revenue.

    If Trump does have this happen to him, I would hope that he would react by getting rid of the IRS immediately.

    Instead, like Bob, I fear he will just use the same power and control to his own ends….

    I will say it again: People need to GO TO JAIL.

    They need to go there Soon! Loudly, publicly, televised on the evening news.

    If the Republicans truly want reform, they need to get off their cowardly asses and start with Koskinen. Not just “impeachment”, send him to JAIL. NOW!

  • Cotour

    I encourage the president to abuse his power, IMO it will ensure a president Trump.

    I have to think at least 50 percent of Americans will be able to recognize whats is going on, the other 40 or so percent are fully indoctrinated and whether they understand it or not are now officially un American Americans and have no concept of what the Constitution is and what abuse of power is.

  • Wayne

    Good post Mr. Z.

    It’s not really about Trump at its core, it’s about the abuse of power and everyone who doesn’t find this to be immoral, unethical, and illegal. No matter if it’s “us” or “them.”
    (Yes, they want to reverse-engineer Trumps returns, and then say he’s lying about his wealth, but there is a bigger picture to worry about.)

    On the John Batchelor show this week–NY Times, basically offered a cash bounty to anyone at the IRS who would illegally obtain tax-returns and send them to the NYT.

    Yours, mine, Trumps, they don’t care, anything to get Hillary elected
    The end justifies the means to these people. And they will do anything.

    Our pathetic republican Congress refuses to use their power of oversight, to reign in these people. They do the show-boating stuff and that’s it. Mitch/Ryan don’t really want any of this investigated— they intentionally blew it for their own devious colluding motives.

    And just on a side note– The FBI Director has a 10 year term. If Trump gets in, he can’t fire the guy. So we’ll be living with his conniving ways for quite some time.
    Not to mention all the political-appointees who have been busily transitioning into the Civil Service, where it’s extremely hard to fire anyone.

    One election won’t fix this. I’m a strong advocate for an Article 5 Convention of the States. We are absolutely within striking distance, but it won’t be easy and we can’t just give up after the election, no matter who wins.
    The States created the Federal Government, only the States can reign it in.

    It’s Saturday the 17th, Constitution Day. What will big media be talking about all weekend?

  • Cotour

    The obvious becomes a bit more obvious, and there is still 50 or so days to go.

  • Joe

    I don’t think the reporter can honestly be called a reporter, he has a vested interest in moving the election one way or the other, he is not objective, like so many other”reporters”, he has become part of the story. The reporter is a political hack!

  • PeterF

    Bob- I suspect this provision was added to the tax code precisely as a tool to screw political opponents.

    Des- No politician or candidate for any office is compelled to release tax records, or medical records, or college GPA records, or college application records, or foundation financial records. The practice of doing so is the result of double-dog dare politics. If a candidate doesn’t respond to an accusation, their opponent can get away with character assassination with impunity. If Trump were to release his returns now it would only serve his enemies accusations, No one who is not supporting him now will switch to support him.

    Wayne- If the NYT does entice an IRS employee into committing a crime, I suspect a president Trump will make prosecution of all involved a priority. No plead the fifth, walk away and get a pass.

    Steve Earle- Your talking about the “Fair Tax”. A system laid out in Neal Boortz’s book “The Fair Tax Book”. A system I would only support if the 16th amendment is repealed and the income tax is abolished.
    -The Clintons have gotten a pass so far because the people who would testify against them have been protected from prosecution with the threat of dire consequences if they turn states evidence. I suspect that the minute the “witnesses” start feeling those metal bracelets that the canaries will start to sing. LOUDLY.

    Wayne- I would like to see an article 5 convention, I would like to see an amendment that imposed term limits on ALL elected officials. (States could follow suit as well and flush the fat fish out of their local small ponds). A provision could be made that required a term limited politician to sit out at least one term before running again for the same office so that a popular leader would not be lost in perpetuity. Civil service rules would have to change and unions would have to be banned entirely so that unelected bureaucrats wouldn’t become our de-facto rulers.

    Joe- The reporter is only masquerading as a journalist. This presidential campaign is exposing many democrat activists in the media. Trump had the right idea to ban them from his press conferences. The pressure to expose them for who they are must be maintained so that they cannot hide behind their fig leaves again.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration does make Trump’s returns public in order to give the election to Hillary. Such a gesture would be worth quite a bit more to the Clintons than a massive donation to their foundation. Barack Hussein Obama is counting on access after he leaves office. Thats why he plans to stay in Washington. (I suspect it won’t take long until people stop returning his calls)

  • Nick P

    “Rather than express outrage and horror at the idea that, merely for political gain, a president could actually demand any citizen’s confidential IRS files — even your files — and release them to the public without that citizen’s permission, you instead focus on Trump and the possibility that there may be justification for such an abuse of power.”

    Bob – Has this issue been tested in Court?

  • Nick P asked, “Has this issue been tested in Court?”

    No, mainly because until now no politician would have dared to do such a thing. The American populace would have destroyed him or her. Now, however, too many Americans are like sheep, married to the factional party they belong to, and would say “Yay, let’s get the bastard on the other side!”.

  • Wayne

    PeterF– good stuff!
    And I’ll note again it’s Constitution Day.

    Article 5: it’s the “Tyranny Escape Hatch,” and we need to use it as fast as we can.

    Our Founders were, that brilliant. They debated this extensively and specifically inserted the 2 methods into the Constitution, because they KNEW in their hearts, a time would come when sufficient people & politician’s, would collude together to grow an increasingly tyrannically central-government.

    The States created the Federal Government, they work for us, not the other way around. It would never have been ratified, by the States, unless it guarded against big centralized power. (We just had a War with the King of England, they knew all about centralized-power.)
    The States were highly self-interested, but as well, they knew that they had to bind themselves together to survive, and become the United States of America. (Recall the Articles of Confederation.)
    It took the socialist-progressives 100 years to sufficiently dismantle the fire-walls in the Constitution, and drag us to this point. (17th amendment for example)

    Now, its accelerating exponentially, and totally out in the open. It’s in our face, and we need to step up & fix it ourselves.
    Brave people actually died on D-Day for example, all we need to do is ACT politically, together. That’s not so much to ask from the children of the greatest-generation, is it? But we must act together, persistently, and continuously, day-by-day, just like our enemies have done. Two steps forward, one step back, that’s how they sunk us, and they never stopped. It’s blatant now. They mock us daily.

    No matter who gets elected, it’s time for us to pull the escape lever, get the hell off the rocket before it explodes. We have the technology, we built it into the module, so we wouldn’t get killed if something went terribly wrong with the system.
    The system is messed up and only the States can rebuild it.

    Washington won’t fix itself. Even if Trump (or Ted Cruz, or God himself) became President, they could help this along and stem the tide maybe, but it’s beyond them at this beyond.
    Even Reagan could only provide a brief halt. See how quickly that was reversed. Full speed ahead to bankruptcy, open borders, Cronyism, you name it…

    We The People, acting through our State Representatives, can & must, restrain the Federal Government.

    We are within striking distance. This is no joke or half-assed movement. Republicans control more State Legislatures than at any time, in a long time. Many States have already passed enabling legislation. (Model legislation is being used, identical across States, to call for the Meeting and specify initial procedures.)

    My favorite new Amendment’s include–
    – 12 year term limit for all Federal Office’s, including Scotus. 12 and out, combined total, house/senate/scotus. (The major levers of power cease to be lifetime entitlements.)
    – ability of the States to over-ride any Federal Legislation or Scotus ruling, within 2 years of passage, by a 3/5ths vote of the States. (The ACA would be gone, “Washington promised to kill it,” the States very well could have, working together.)

    -We will debate the particulars and quibble over it, but I think we must agree it has to happen.

    Nick P– this IRS stuff has not been tested in Court. It’s a legal-stretch and depends upon all sorts of administrative law ruling’s in the past, as to whether it’s “legal” or not
    Executive Branch could do this, then what happens? Ryan files a lawsuit? Or do Ryan/Mitch immediately move to sanction all involved using their inherent power, which they gave up on a long time ago? –That’s never going to happen.

    Obama is leaving in January, he’ll never be held to account for anything, ever. He could literally “do anything he wants,” right now, and nothing will happen. (even if it results in Trump winning.) Nobody is getting impeached or investigated right now, and you can’t un-ring the bell.

    There is no check on Obama and hasn’t been for awhile, and this is truly scary stuff.

  • pzatchok

    Trump could be doing an Obama.

    Holding back until the shrill call of the press is high enough then dropping a great looking tax return on them.

    You don’t actually think he would disclose his business taxes do you? No he will only show his personal taxes and those will look like he pays a higher rate than Hillary will ever pay.

    He more than likely only pays himself a million or so a year and pays the full tax on that. No deductions.
    Everything in his life is more than likely held in a trust or as part of his business. Just like the Kennedy’s. And every other smart business man.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    A national sales tax, if it completely replaced the Federal income tax, would be huge, probably in the neighborhood of 25%. And with State and local sales taxes, possibly a combined 35-40%. I expect this would greatly increase under the table payments as well as barter. People will find a way to beat the system.

  • Steve Earle

    A national sales tax may or may not be the answer, but I do know that the IRS as an institution must go.

    If it does not, then just like the VA it will continue to get worse. The institutional mindset is too deeply ingrained, and even if Trump doesn’t abuse the power it offers, you know that the next President after will….. It’s too tempting.

    I do agree that whatever solution is agreed upon, it needs to be crystal clear in every way possible that no other taxes are allowed. That way, if the Sales Tax does rise to absurd levels, the public will now know exactly how high their taxes are.

    As is now, most have no idea how high taxes are. They have been cleverly hidden and masked in all sorts of ways. If the public actually saw the total burden (around 45 to 55 percent of total income depending on where you live) there would be much higher support for smaller government.

  • Wayne

    Steve Earle/ D K–

    Good stuff, both. Yes– we need to dramatically scale-back the IRS. It’s all about social-policy now, rather than collecting the least amount of taxes we need to run the Federal Government, within the proscribed duties it was designed to carry out, in the least harmful manner.

    (Wage withholding was started in WW-2 & as both of you touched upon, people pay huge amounts of taxes when you add it all up, but its largely hidden.)

    Tangentially– Mark Levin has suggested, 1/2 jokingly, that Tax Day be moved to the Day before the Election in November. Pay your taxes on Monday, then vote on Tuesday.

    We probably all have our preferred taxation schemes, but we must first agree “they are too high,” then work to chop them down (and concurrently reduce spending) and get rid of the IRS, before we impose anything new.

    pzatchok– you are definitely on to something.

  • Nick P


    “No, mainly because until now no politician would have dared to do such a thing. ”

    Bob, I agree with you. The problem is, no one can challenge the Law until AFTER the President has already released his tax records unless Trump seeks a restraining order before hand, which would make him look bad.

  • pzatchok

    Actually a national sales tax need not be big at all.

    You just have to remove ALL deductions and keep it that way. All personal deductions, all business deductions, all deductions of any kind.

    Every time something is sold or a service is done the tax is imposed. Its cumulative.

    Think of all the steps or hands any product passes through before it reaches the final customer.

    Start off with a 1% national sales tax and it will eventually equal out to 5 to 10 percent.

  • PeterF

    A national sales tax would be easy to avoid. Just don’t buy CRAP you don’t need.

    “The Rich” would pay their “fair share” because the stuff they buy would be more expensive. The tax on a Rolls is more than the tax on a Prius even though the percentage is the same.

    The tax should be about 17% to be revenue neutral to the current income tax.

    One plan is for a “prebate” be paid to every LEGAL resident so that so that poor people can buy the necessities (like food) and not be harmed. Certain necessities can be tax exempt and additional excise taxes can be used to make certain items less desirable.

  • wayne

    Definitely empathize.

    My preference would be, to reduce all this Federal spending drastically so we don’t need to impose new additional taxes or create new apparatus to collect them.
    If individual States want to create these socialist-paradises they can try themselves, tax their own citizens, and leave me out of it.
    And I don’t want anything along these lines to be revenue-neutral. The Federal Government doesn’t collect revenue, it extracts taxes from the people. I want the taxes the Feds extract, reduced massively.
    –Its about time these Clowns made hard decision’s. (Just as an example, they blow $4 billion/year on free cell phones for 25 million people. Who gave them the power to take my money & give someone a free cell phone? And why would I support a tax-scheme that continued doing that?
    My preference is to reduce the amount of money the Feds collect. Its all our money to begin with. The question shouldn’t be how much do we get to keep, but rather how much are we willing to allow them to take for doing the things they should be doing, which doesn’t include income-transfers & social-programs.

    Back to the tax-return thing– Obama can literally do anything he wants, and has done so for quite awhile.
    Huge amounts of his actions are borderline illegal if not blatantly illegal, and I expect that to continue right up to his last second in Office. .He will never be held accountable and Mitch/Ryan certainly will not lift a finger, ever. (Just wait until he starts pardoning people, wholesale.)

    –Congress has the power to put an end to all sorts of craziness, but they refuse to do it.
    They need to protect their phony baloney jobs, and they will continue to do anything they want.

  • wayne

    Highly recommend anything on Public Choice Theory, by James M. Buchanan.

    and in particular:

    The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution

  • wodun

    My preference would be, to reduce all this Federal spending drastically so we don’t need to impose new additional taxes or create new apparatus to collect them.

    People complain about dark money in politics and special interest groups but the only way to reduce their influence is to reduce the budget of the federal government. The more money the feds have to spend, the more competition over how it is spent.

    A similar case can be made with regulations. Business and people are going to lobby for/against regulations that favor or hurt them. They should. Any time congress want to pass a regulation or law, the people affected by them should have the ability to speak their mind. The only way to reduce this situation is for there to be less regulations.

  • Edward

    PeterF wrote: “A system I would only support if the 16th amendment is repealed and the income tax is abolished.

    Taxing individuals in any way always gives power to the taxing authority, power that is removed from the tax payer. When we are taxed, we lose some of our ability for free markets to determine the economy, and the government gains that amount of ability, reducing the free market determining price and quality. Governments are lousy at directing resources, because they need not care about price or quality – they can always tax more to make up for high prices or poor quality — meaning that scarce national resources are often squandered. Individuals care greatly how their money is spent, demanding low prices and high quality, meaning that scarce national resources are often used efficiently and effectively, allowing the free market and competition to determine price and quality.

    The idea of a revolt against high taxes used for poor or corrupt purposes — unfair taxation — is the basis of the Robin Hood and the Zorro stories. We need such a story here in the United States to counter the federal government’s usurpation of power.

    Wayne wrote: “The States created the Federal Government, only the States can reign it in.

    The Seventeenth Amendment also needs to be repealed, as it takes away power from the states. With the loss of power, the federal government was able to place “unfunded mandates” onto the states for many years, before they became so onerous on the states and on We the People in those states that even Congress felt pressure to pass a law forbidding the practice. The states have lost much of the needed control over the federal government, and the loss of this control from local authority is why we have so much corruption and abuse of power at the federal level.

    It was after the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments that the federal government was able to abuse the power that belongs to We the People. Repealing these two amendments would go a long way toward taking back our power from the usurping federal government. That also means that there would be no federal sales or “fair”* tax.

    Just as the suggestion that the president release tax records is a usurpation of power, so are the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, leaving the people and the states without the power that the Tenth Amendment was supposed to guarantee.

    * Whatever “fair” means. It means different things to different people.

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