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Americans filed their tax returns weeks ago, but the controversy surrounding President Trump’s returns is not going away. Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressuring Trump to make his returns public and now many state lawmakers across the country are doing the same.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, bills have been introduced in 17 states that would keep President Trump off their election ballots in 2020 unless he releases his tax returns to the public.
“Tax returns go to the core of your true financial interests,” said Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat in the Washington state Senate. “Obviously, it’s just unprecedented for President Trump not to release his taxes. No one’s ever imagined that someone would do that, so I think it’s a legitimate public policy.”
There’s no law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, but it’s been common practice since the 1970s. In 2016, candidate Donald Trump broke that tradition. He said he was not able to release his returns because they were being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.
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Last week, he was asked about an effort by some Democrats to force the IRS to turn over Trump’s returns. The president deflected the issue.
“Mueller, I assume, for $35 million checked my taxes, checked my financials, which are great, by the way,” Trump said.
Republicans call the ballot qualification bills a stunt. In Washington state, they point out, top Democrats would directly benefit. Governor Jay Inslee is running for president and his attorney general, Bob Ferguson, who has sued the Trump Administration 35 times, is rumored to be considering a run for governor.
“It’s a blind partisanship of the attorney general and the governor who’s running for office,” said Republican Mark Schoesler, the Washington state Senate Minority Leader. “This is about 2020 presidential politics, not about our state.”
While states do run elections, legal experts said they can’t add requirements to be president.
“The Constitution has spoken to that,” said Andrew McCarthy of the National Review Institute and a Fox News contributor. “And if you want to change the qualifications for presidency, including if you want to add a qualification that says you have to release your tax returns, you need to amend the Constitution.”
Republicans in Washington state are also calling the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer, a hypocrite. Kuderer, who represents the wealthiest district in the state with the two richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, among her constituents, refused to release her tax returns when asked by a reporter for the Seattle Times. Her bill only applies to people running for president and vice president. Kuderer declined our request for an interview.