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May 10, 2019

Hans von Spakovsky: Can The New York Times Be Prosecuted for Publishing Trump's Legally-Protected Tax Information?

I mentioned this possibility yesterday, but von Spakovsky is more informed (obviously!) about the possibility.

The New York Times no doubt considers it quite a coup to have obtained and published President Trump's tax return information from 1985 to 1994. But doing so violated Trump's right under federal law to the confidentiality of his tax returns.

The Times -- which reported that Trumpís businesses lost $1.17 billion during the 10-year period -- has no more right to Trumpís tax returns than it has to mine or those of any of you reading these words.

Confidentiality, as the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held in 1991 in U.S. v. Richey, is essential to "maintaining a workable tax system."

...

Regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of The New York Times story, tax returns themselves, as well as tax return information such as these IRS transcripts (which are a summary of the tax returns), are protected from disclosure by federal law. And this provision applies to private individuals as well as government employees, a fact that should be considered by the New York Times' source.

...


Could the editors and reporters at the New York Times be prosecuted for publishing this information?

Section (a)(3) of the law makes it a felony for any person who receives an illegally disclosed tax return or return information to publish that return or that information. But it's unknown if the bar on publication by a media organization could survive a First Amendment challenge.

As I noted in a post yesterday, courts engage in "balancing" tests -- which are pretty much bullshitty "do I feel like upholding the law today" exercises -- on issues like these. The New York Times violated the law, but they'd apply a balancing test to determine if the public interest in publishing the data is greater than a citizen's right to have the protection of the law.

But given that Trump freely disclosed his big losses in the eighties, what news value is there in revealing that which was never veiled?

I don't know about a prosecution here -- the government is in bed with the Democrats and never prosecutes them for politically-related crimes -- but a civil suit would be nice.


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posted by Ace of Spades at 08:14 PM

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