August 6, 2019
President Trump and the Republican party filed multiple lawsuits on Tuesday to block California's recently implemented law that requires presidential hopefuls to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state's primary ballot.
The measure was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last week and was a direct challenge to Trump, who in 2016 bucked the longstanding norm of presidential candidates volunteering to release their taxes.
"Today we have taken decisive action in federal court, challenging California's attempt to circumvent the U.S. Constitution," Jay Sekulow, the president's counsel, said in a statement. "The effort to deny California voters the opportunity to cast a ballot for President Trump in 2020 will clearly fail."
Trump himself, as well as his official 2020 campaign, sued the state in the U.S. Eastern District of California arguing that the law violates the First Amendment and restricts voting rights. The plaintiffs called on the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting implementation.
"There's an easy fix Mr. President — release your tax returns as you promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973," Newsom said on Twitter in response.
Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns since the 2016 election, during which he claimed to be under audit. After winning the White House, his administration also resisted several attempts from congressional Democrats and activists to obtain the president's taxes and examine financial holdings for possible fraud and foreign entanglements.
Under California's law — known as the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act — all presidential and gubernatorial candidates are required to disclose five years of income tax returns at least 98 days before a primary election. California is set to hold its 2020 presidential primary on March 3.
"Legal scholars from across the political spectrum have roundly condemned this flagrantly illegal statute," Sekulow claimed. "We are confident the courts will as well."
Seemingly anticipating the legal fight, Newsom defended the law's constitutionality at the bill's signing ceremony last week, saying that "California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement."
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement Tuesday, "It certainly doesn't bode well for Democrats heading into 2020 that their best bet for beating President Trump is to deny millions of Californians the ability to vote for him."
Tuesday's court filing came just a day after Judicial Watch, a Washington-based conservative activist group, submitted a related lawsuit against Alex Padilla, California's Secretary of State. The organization filed suit on behalf of four Californian voters — two Republicans, one Democrat, and one Independent.
"California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters," Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch's president, said in a statement on Monday.
In response to the legal challenges, Democratic State Sen. Mike McGuire — who introduced California's law — said on Twitter that "it comes as no surprise the President would freak out at the prospect of transparency and accountability. Welcome to the rule of law."