Despite her assertion that there’s a 1st Amendment protection given the media to publish the tax returns of someone they deem worthy of scrutiny, Rachel Maddox is woefully ignorant. Just because she plays a journalist on television doesn’t make her one.
Meanwhile, the law is clear.
26 U.S. Code § 6103 – Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information
(a) General rule Returns and return information shall be confidential, and except as authorized by this title —
(1) no officer or employee of the United States,
(2) no officer or employee of any State, any local law enforcement agency receiving information under subsection (i)(1)(C) or (7)(A), any local child support enforcement agency, or any local agency administering a program listed in subsection (l)(7)(D) who has or had access to returns or return information under this section or section 6104(c), and
(3) no other person (or officer or employee thereof) who has or had access to returns or return information under subsection (e)(1)(D)(iii), subsection (k)(10), paragraph (6), (10), (12), (16), (19), (20), or (21) of subsection (l), paragraph (2) or (4)(B) of subsection (m), or subsection (n),
shall disclose any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee or otherwise or under the provisions of this section. For purposes of this subsection, the term “officer or employee” includes a former officer or employee.
No respectable editor would ever allow the tax returns of an individual be published without their written consent. It wouldn’t matter if someone left it in a mailbox or in a public bathroom, the law is clear NO one (outside of pertinent IRS personnel) is allowed to view or share the confidential tax returns of anyone else, let alone publish it for world dissemination.
Your Privacy Rights
The IRS is committed to protecting the privacy rights of America’s taxpayers. These rights are protected by the Internal Revenue Code, the Privacy Act of 1974, the Freedom of Information Act, and IRS policies and practices.
And please note, there is no exemption for the media but there ARE rules for legally obtaining a return: you just have to fill out the appropriate paperwork and wait for approval or denial.
§ 601.702 Publication, public inspection, and specific requests for records
(B) News media requester. Any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news (i.e., information about current events or of current interest to the public) to the public. News media entities include, but are not limited to, television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, publishers of periodicals, to the extent they disseminate news, who make their periodicals available for purchase or subscription by the general public, computerized news services and telecommunications. Free lance journalists shall be included as media requesters if they can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through a qualifying news entity (e.g., publication contract, past publication record). Specialized periodicals, although catering to a narrower audience, may be considered media requesters so long as they are available to the public generally, via newsstand or subscription.
Q: How did DCReport.org obtain Trump’s 2005 federal income-tax return?
A: It was mailed to us anonymously.
— DCReport.org, 3/14/17
Who really gets anything of value in their mailbox nowadays? Puh-leez.
Q: Are you sure it’s real?
A: The White House confirmed the authenticity of the return. If we learn more, we will let you know.
Translation: Mr. Johnson, you have released a confidential tax return of the President of the United States to the world. You’re in trouble.
He won a Pulitzer in 2001 as a “beat reporter” (and it appears it’s been quite awhile since he’s walked a beat), and in the video above told Rachel Maddow that every president has released his tax return. That’s 100% not true. Only ten out of the forty-five presidents have voluntarily released their tax returns.
Q: What’s the agenda of the person who sent the return to you?
A: We have no idea. We presume he or she is a patriot who believes, like us, that Trump’s employers, the citizens of the United States, have the right and need to know about his finances. We have put a lot of effort into uncovering the sources of Trump’s income because of our concerns about national security and integrity in the White House.
Johnson justified the public’s right to know with speculation of President Trump’s potential financial entanglements that may later pose problems. Funny how Mr. Johnson didn’t do a similar colonoscopy of Hillary Clinton’s potential financial entanglements within the Clinton Foundation and while she was running the State Department, but for $400k a year writing for a nonprofit… maybe we should see HIS tax returns!
Q: Is it legal for you to publish the return?
A: Yes. If we did not solicit the return or coerce someone into giving it to us, we are free to publish. This was made clear last fall when the New York Times published Trump’s 1995 returns, which were also mailed to the paper anonymously.
Sorry, a friendly Obama administration taking action against a friendly New York Times would be like a brother calling the cops on his sister. The situation is a tad different now even though the law has always been the law.
26 U.S. Code § 7213 – Unauthorized disclosure of information
It shall be unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information. Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
If the media wants tax information, there is a process to request that information which probably requires the return’s owner to give written consent. MSNBC actually showed graphics of President Trump’s return on air (with his social security number redacted) and as of 3am Wednesday, the other media channels did not… yet.
It will be interesting to watch this play out as we’re not talking about federal law enforcement run by Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch. The media will scream bloody murder if the Trump Administration goes after MSNBC and Johnson, ignorantly hiding behind Constitutionally-protected press freedom, but everyone who physically held a copy of the tax return in question or published it on air may want to lawyer-up.
But that’s what you get when you let poly-sci majors and others pose as journalists.