The Hill reports on the latest escalating constitutional crisis in Washington, D.C., this time related to the standoff over President Donald Trump’s tax returns as the administration turns to outright defiance of the law, backed up by a highly questionable opinion from Attorney General William “The Getaway Driver” Barr:
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) hammered the Justice Department on Friday over a legal opinion it wrote backing the Treasury Department’s defiance of a House subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns.
“What is the President hiding in his tax returns? And since when does ‘shall’ mean ‘unless it displeases Trump?'” the House Intelligence Committee chairman tweeted late Friday.
“And, perhaps more importantly: What will be left of DOJ’s independence and reputation for impartial justice after Barr? The answer? Very little,” he added.
The law in this case is not ambiguous, stating that the Department of the Treasury “shall furnish” any tax return on request of congressional leadership. The law does not require any reason to be specified, but Attorney General Barr asserted in his opinion backing up the Treasury Department’s refusal to turn the documents over that there was no “legitimate legislative purpose” in the request.
There are a number of problems with this, starting with the fact that Barr doesn’t get to make that determination on behalf of Congress. It is Congress’ role to determine what a “legitimate legislative purpose is.” This is a fundamental separation of powers issue, not a point of idle debate. Another problem is that the Attorney General’s job is not to serve as the President’s personal counsel, and for the second time now after Barr’s highly criticized cushioning of the release of the Mueller report he has acted in a way that can only be interpreted as defending the president from political fallout. It’s the sort of thing that would force a resignation, but not in Trump’s White House.
GARDNER: The issue of the tax returns, I think everybody should should have the opportunity to, to release their tax returns. And that’s, uh people in the state legislature and people running for Congress. I’ve done that, others have, and I think everyone should. So I think I agree with you there. It shouldn’t just be about President Trump, it ought to be about President Obama, President Bush it ought to be about whoever is running for president, Hillary Clinton, you name it, and they should have done that. So…
That’s Senator Cory Gardner, speaking during an April 2017 telephone “town hall” in response to a question about the refusal by President Trump to release his tax returns. Just a few months after the 2016 elections, Gardner apparently saw no political risk in saying that everybody should “have the opportunity” to release their tax returns. Gardner neatly glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton did release her tax returns during the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump did not, but the lip service he pays to doing the deed is significant.
Actually, it’s more than significant today. It’s our latest constitutional crisis! And it’s not 2017 anymore, either–both Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump are on the ballot in the next general election. With all of this in mind, it’s high time to hear from Gardner on this subject again whether he wants to talk about it or not.
Our guess is he probably won’t. So keep your running shoes handy.