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Congress hasn’t been able to get their hands on Donald Trump’s federal tax returns (yet), but his New York state returns will be available soon, thanks to a new law in the president’s home state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Monday that basically makes tax returns a little less private, by amending a law that exempted an individual’s tax privacy from matters involving law enforcement to include congressional tax-related investigations. The action ensures that congressional Democrats will have yet another bullet in the chamber if they choose to comb through the president’s notoriously shady financial dealings over the last four decades.
"Tax secrecy is paramount — the exception being for bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes," Cuomo said in a statement on Monday. "By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system, and ensure that no one is above the law."
New York lawmakers first passed the bill in May in an 84-53 vote. The legislation split the Democratic majority of the state assembly, some citing that creating new laws and exemptions with the sole purpose of pursuing a few political entities sets a dangerous precedent.
“Make no mistake: I have complete disdain with what is going on in this administration in Washington,” Democrat Michael Benedetto said after voting no on the legislation. “But when I see a couple of bills coming to us which the purpose is obviously political in nature, then it gives me pause. We are traveling down a path that we should not be traveling down: No Legislature should craft legislation for political reasons just to get a few people they consider their enemies.”
News of the bill didn’t go over well in the president’s legal camp. In an email to The Hill, Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow called the bill “presidential harassment” and promised to respond with “appropriate action.”
The passage of the New York law comes just days after U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump-appointed judge, was assigned to oversee a federal lawsuit filed by the House Ways and Means Committee against the Internal Revenue Service for refusing to hand over six years worth of the president’s tax returns. Legal experts say Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Trump administration won’t have much basis to keep the taxes from the public if they keep missing the committee’s deadlines to release the documents and the standstill continues.
Trump’s elusive tax returns have been the holy grail for Democrats dating as far back as the 2016 elections when the then-candidate refused to release them to the public. Trump, meanwhile, has regularly insisted they are being audited even though federal audits don’t prevent someone from making their taxes public.
Last October, the New York Times released a bombshell report showing that the Trump dynasty was built on years of tax schemes and fraud.
Cover: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the $175.5 billion state budget during a news conference in the Red Room at the state Capitol Sunday, March, 31, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)