Rare Trump victory in California: Judge blocks law aimed at tax returns

Rare Trump victory in California: Judge blocks law aimed at tax returns

It rarely happens but President Trump was handed a victory in California that was announced Tuesday night. The attempt to keep Trump off the California primary ballot unless he provides his tax returns is on hold … for now.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. issued an opinion that California’s new law likely violates the Constitution. In September he signaled that this would likely be his opinion. He said he would issue a formal ruling by October 1 and he did. The Trump campaign and Republican parties sued over the law which requires candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the March 2020 primary ballot.

The stunt to demand the release of President Trump’s tax returns didn’t sit well with the judge – a George W. Bush appointee. Governor Newsom signed it into law in July. In September Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, was hopeful.

Lawyers for Trump and Republicans argue that it violates the U.S. Constitution by adding an additional requirement to run for president. They also said a federal law requiring presidents to disclose financial information supersedes state law.

“We are encouraged that the federal court tentatively concluded that a preliminary injunction should be granted,” Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “We look forward to the court’s written order. 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.”

The new California law requires candidates for governor or president to file copies of five years of tax returns with the California Secretary of State’s office. Refusal to do so will mean the candidate will not appear on the primary ballot. The law targets just those two offices – it doesn’t apply to general elections. Gov. Newsom claimed at the time he signed the bill into law that California has a “special responsibility”, whatever that means.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said he signed the law because California has a “special responsibility” to hold candidates to high ethical standards. The Trump campaign sued, arguing the law seeks to add another qualification for running for president, something state governments don’t have the authority to do.

It is unclear exactly why Newsom thinks that California is so special. California is one of fifty states, not a special entity of its own. Let’s face it, this is just an attempt to press Trump for tax documents he hasn’t provided to the public. Democrats would love for a state to be successful in an attempt to keep Trump off the state’s primary ballot and no doubt more would follow suit if the federal court rules in favor of such an attempt. The Trump campaign argues that state governments don’t have the authority to add an additional qualification for those running for president.

The judge is sympathetic to the state’s demand but his priority is to rule as the Constitution dictates.

In his 24-page ruling, Morrison wrote the state’s concerns are “both legitimate and understandable,” highlighting that candidates have offered “unnecessary and irrelevant excuses for shielding the public from such information.”

“It is not the job of the courts, however, to decide whether a tax return disclosure requirement is good policy or makes political sense,” wrote Morrison, who was appointed by former Republican President George W. Bush. “Instead, it is the court’s job to make sure the Constitution wins.”

Judge Morrison rightfully pointed out the obvious – California is a Democrat-controlled state. The California legislature passed legislation that specifically targets a Republican president. The law violates Trump’s First Amendment right “of associating with voters who share his political beliefs.”

“The dangerous precedent set by this act, allowing the controlling party in any state’s legislature to add substantive requirements as a precondition to qualifying for the state’s presidential primary ballot, should concern all candidates alike,” he wrote.

This move by the California legislature smacked of petty partisan politics from the beginning. It is in line with the blatant authoritarianism on display by the Democrats running for president and in top leadership. Whether it is Joe Biden’s campaign demanding that Rudy Guiliani be shunned by networks, or Kamala Harris calling on Twitter to suspend Trump’s account, or Speaker Pelosi allowing impeachment inquiries to begin without holding a formal vote so that the minority (Republicans) can be heard, the Democrats are on quite a roll. It does not bode well for the future of our country if they are successful and take back the White House in 2020, or the Senate, for that matter.

The judge’s ruling blocking the bill will be appealed.

California’s chief elections officer on Tuesday said he plans to appeal the decision. “California will appeal this ruling and we will continue to make our thorough, thoughtful argument for stronger financial disclosure requirements for presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Padilla said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Our elected leaders have a legal and moral obligation to be transparent with voters about potential conflicts of interest. This law is fundamental to preserving and protecting American democracy.”

If the appeal is successful, November 26 will be the deadline to file tax returns for California’s March 3 presidential primary.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on February 03, 2023