In a move that appeared designed to give congressional Democrats access to President Trump’s tax returns, Governor Cuomo July 8 signed into law a bill directing his Tax Commissioner to provide state income-tax returns if requested to the chairpersons of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
State returns for New York taxpayers contain much of the information that would be included in their Federal returns, and so the new law could make available to the congressional panels the data that Mr. Trump has withheld going back to the 2016 presidential campaign, when he became the first major-party presidential nominee in four decades to refuse to publicly disclose his tax returns for recent years.
Stalled and Then Chortled
At the time, Mr. Trump said he could not submit copies of the returns because he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, although that did not legally block him from making them available. Once in office, he argued that the issue had been settled when voters made him their choice despite his not having disclosed the tax information—notwithstanding the fact that he had actually lost the popular vote to Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by 2,869,000 votes, the largest lead for any candidate who did not win the Electoral College.
The Governor said in a statement that the enactment of the law “gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law.”
But New York State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy responded, “This law is nothing more than presidential harassment. Today Andrew Cuomo and Albany Democrats are using it to go after President Trump, but tomorrow it could be any New Yorker. It will never stand up in the courts and they will once again be exposed for wasting precious taxpayer resources on their never-ending partisan witch hunt.”
His statement appeared to allude to the belief expressed by some Republicans that the legislation amounted to a “bill of attainder,” which violates the Constitution because it is aimed at a single person or group and constituted an invasion of Mr. Trump’s privacy.
Mr. Cuomo said in his statement that while “tax secrecy is paramount,” there had to be exceptions made “for bona fide investigative and law-enforcement purposes.”
The President has vowed that he would go to the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid having his Federal returns made available. The Governor and New York legislators maintain that provisions of the new law that allow it to be applied not only to Mr. Trump but to other state and Federal officials and political-party leaders should keep it from running afoul of the Constitution.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, who was one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement that “this legislation is bigger than one person or one President. Moving forward, this new law helps Congress perform one of its most important responsibilities: oversight of the Office of the President.”
He said it would help “restore the fundamental democratic [principle] that no one person—no matter what office they might hold—is above the law.”
Feud Becoming a Constant
Mr. Cuomo’s signing the bill was a new shot in the escalating political feud between the two Queens natives who prior to Mr. Trump’s White House run enjoyed friendly relations. Five days earlier, the Governor, who has made several visits to Puerto Rico since it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, called for an investigation of what he called “President Trump’s neglect and refusal to provide adequate assistance” in the wake of the devastation wreaked by the storm.
Two days later, after the President countermanded his Commerce Secretary’s decision to begin printing 2020 U.S. Census forms in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling upholding a lower-court decision barring the use of a citizenship question, Mr. Cuomo accused him of “using the census as a political pawn in his anti-immigrant agenda.”
Mr. Trump had actually touched off that week’s hostilities with a July 1 tweet that accused the Governor of using State Attorney General Letitia James as a “bludgeoning tool” against him in a probe of his New York enterprises.
“They sue on everything, always in search of a crime,” he wrote. “Now Cuomo’s A.G. is harassing all of my New York businesses in search of anything at all they can find to make me look as bad as possible.”
Implies Trump Running Scared
The Governor had responded that the President’s charge that he was in cahoots with Ms. James—an independently elected official but one who enjoyed Mr. Cuomo’s strong support during his 2018 re-election campaign in which she gained the office of the state’s top law-enforcement official—”shows that his paranoia is once again getting the better of him.”
He subsequently added of Mr. Trump, “If he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to worry about.”
But as if to get under the President’s skin, the Governor and Ms. James at the bill-signing press conference mugged for the cameras, with him seated while she stood over him leaning in, as both pointed out at their audience.
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