We need Trump’s tax returns, even if California’s new primary law is unconstitutional

President Trump.
(Michael B. Thomas / Getty Images)

To the editor: Law professors John Yoo and Robert Delahunty are on solid constitutional ground in arguing that states cannot create new qualifications for federal office, such as California’s new law requiring presidential candidates to disclose five years of tax returns to appear on the primary ballot. This law seems to target a recalcitrant President Trump.

But they go on to say, “Democrats have long sought to force the disclosure of his tax returns, and Democrats in the House are suing the IRS to compel their release.”

Yes and rightly so, as the federal tax code states that upon the written request of the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, the IRS shall deliver the tax returns of any person. Our system of separation of powers gives Congress the oversight authority and duty to investigate malfeasance in the office of the president.


The president’s tax returns would be an integral element of such an investigation.

Nate Tucker, Costa Mesa


To the editor: I tend to agree with Yoo and Delahunty when they state that California’s new tax-return law will likely fail in the courts. However, the case is valuable in exposing a flaw in our Constitution.

The Constitution’s now-widely known Emoluments Clause cannot be enforced until we the people have access to the president’s financial records. Yoo and Delahunty criticize California’s law as partisan, but the reality is that the opposition to it is equally partisan, and a Republican-run Senate will never enforce the Emoluments Clause.

This raises the question: If the federal government will not uphold the Constitution, can the states take action? Nothing in the California law states that only Republicans must release their tax returns, so in the long run, we the people benefit from increased transparency.

Ideally, the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down California’s law, but only if a federal law replaces it and makes tax-return disclosure consistent for the whole country.

Bill Gervasi, Ladera Ranch


To the editor: To my former law school professor Yoo, I must ask: Why isn’t the entire primary system unconstitutional?


What authority did the state of California have 110 years ago to mandate that political parties choose their nominees through the ballot box rather than through caucus, convention or whatever other means such party should choose?

If the state has the authority to override a private club’s ability to choose its nominees, then it would seem to me that a tax return disclosure requirement hardly “disrupts Republicans’ associational rights” any more than the primary system itself does.

Mike Heath, Venice


To the editor: Yoo and Delahunty argue that the California law requiring disclosure of five years of tax returns to qualify for the primary ballot is unconstitutional because, among other things, it establishes an additional requirement to run for the presidency.

I’m not convinced. For one thing, some states for years have had the requirement of a filing fee; isn’t that “additional”?

For another, the law doesn’t preclude a candidate from running as a write-in candidate.

Rick Dunn, San Diego