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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.