Federal judge halts California law forcing Trump to release tax returns to qualify for ballot
A federal judge has ordered a temporary injunction against the California law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns to secure a spot on the state’s presidential primary ballot — a law aimed at President Donald Trump, who has not released his tax returns.
In a ruling Thursday, US District Court Judge Morrison England, Jr., said that California cannot force candidates to disclose their tax returns as outlined in a new state law. England said he would make his final ruling on the law before October 1.
Even as the temporary injunction will likely face appeals from state officials, the decision marks a clear victory for Trump who sued California last month to challenge the state law. The Trump administration has resisted various large-scale efforts to obtain the President’s tax returns, a battle that has largely played out in courts.
Trump has claimed that ongoing IRS audits have stopped him from making his tax returns public, even though audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing tax returns.
While the law in question covers all presidential candidates, those in court Thursday acknowledged it was all aimed at one person.
“The elephant in the room is President Trump’s tax returns,” England said.
“It has taken us an hour and a half, but we have finally come around why we are here for all of this, because President Trump did not disclose his taxes,” England said during the hearing.
A lawyer for the state of California, Peter Chang, argued the law was valid because it applies to all candidates.
“Trump spawned this when he broke 50 years of tradition” by not releasing them, Chang said.
But a lawyer for Trump, Thomas McCarthy, countered that the law “handicaps” the candidate who wants to keep his returns private. He also argued the law could set off a slippery slope that could lead to more extreme candidate disclosures like mental and physical information.
Mark Albert, another attorney arguing against the law, echoed this sentiment, stating in a tongue-in-check riff that eventually presidential candidates would have to release a “23 and me” report detailing his or her genetics, a reference to the private company that sells DNA kits.
Trump vs. California
California, a reliably Democratic state, has long garnered special attention from Trump who has criticized the state for a range of issues — including placing blame on Hollywood for an epidemic of mass shooting last month. On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the Trump administration and Republicans for their “complete silence on state’s rights, but also free enterprise” in light of President Donald Trump’s decision to curtail state-set emissions standards.
Newsom signed the “Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act” into law in July.
“The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement,” Newsom said at the time.
Another lawsuit was filed in July by Republican voters along with the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of California who argue that this a political maneuver that takes voting rights away from Trump’s supporters.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow praised Thursday’s ruling.
“We are encouraged that the federal court tentatively concluded that a preliminary injunction should be granted,” he said in a statement. “It remains our position that the law is unconstitutional because states are not permitted to add additional requirements for candidates for president, and that the law violates the Constitution.”
News of the temporary injunction comes the same day Trump launched a new lawsuit against his long-time accounting firm Mazars USA and New York district attorney Cyrus Vance to attempt to stop his accounting records and tax returns from being sent to the local prosecutor, arguing he can’t be prosecuted while in the White House.