Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Published 3:29 p.m. ET July 23, 2019 | Updated 4:28 p.m. ET July 23, 2019
Assemblyman David Buchwald, D-White Plains, discusses a bill that will allow Congress to request copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, May 21, 2019. Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY – President Donald Trump sued New York and Congress on Tuesday over a state law that allows congressional committees to seek his state tax returns.
The expected move comes as Democrats in Congress mull whether to request the president’s New York taxes from the state after the state Legislature passed a bill in May to make them available to federal lawmakers.
Trump’s attorneys argued in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that New York’s TRUST Act violates the constitution and the Republican president’s First Amendment rights.
“The TRUST Act also grew out of a larger campaign in New York to uncover and expose the President’s private financial information in the hopes of damaging him politically,” the lawsuit said.
“President Trump was thus forced to bring this lawsuit to safeguard his legal rights.”
The lawsuit is the latest by Trump to try to block the release of his tax returns.
On July 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law that lets three three congressional committees request copies of Trump’s state tax returns as Democrats on Capitol Hill have been stonewalled for them by the president’s administration.
Since Trump and his businesses are still based in New York, the state had the unique ability to pass a law to help House Democrats in their pursuit of his tax returns.
“Tax secrecy is paramount — the exception being for bona fide investigative and law enforcement purposes,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement when he signed the law.
Trump’s attorneys, though, argue the law is clearly aimed at him and “expose the President’s private tax information for political gain.”
Assemblyman David Buchwald, D-White Plains, predicted the law would withstand the court challenge.
“I have every confidence that the President’s legal challenge will fail and New York’s standing offer to support Congress in its oversight role on taxes will remain in effect,” Buchwald, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.
What the lawsuit seeks
Assemblyman David Buchwald, D-White Plains, and Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, have legislation in New York that would make the state tax department release President Donald Trump’s taxes. They spoke during a news conference on Monday, April 8, 2019, at the state Capitol. Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
The lawsuit contends the law should be ruled unconstitutional and his tax returns in New York should not legally be available to the congressional committees.
“The President is entitled to relief,” the lawsuit said. “Because the Committee’s jurisdiction is limited to federal taxes, no legislation could possibly result from a request for the President’s state tax returns. The Committee thus lacks a legitimate legislative purpose for using the TRUST Act.”
The lawsuit notes that the president’s concern over the New York law has been raised in recent days after House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has suggested he might be open to using the New York law, after indicating previously he wasn’t interested in it.
“Chairman Neal could invoke the TRUST Act, and the Commissioner could disclose the President’s state tax returns, immediately,” the lawsuit said. “The Act was drafted for speed: The Chairman can make a request at any time.”
The lawsuit was brought against Attorney General Letitia James, tax commissioner Michael Schmidt and the House Ways and Means Committee.
James knocked the case, arguing that the law is legal and that New York will “vigorously defend it.”
“President Trump has spent his career hiding behind lawsuits, but, as New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I can assure him that no one is above the law — not even the president of the United States,” she said in a statement.
“The TRUST Act will shine a light on the president’s finances and finally offer transparency to millions of Americans yearning to know the truth.”
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