The New York Times dropped what many in the press described as a bombshell report on Donald Trump and his taxes.
But only one party in this story actually broke the law.
And it was the New York Times.
The Times – which has long slanted their coverage to the left – has largely abandoned the practice of journalism this election so they can operate as an anti-Trump Super PAC.
In the Times’ story, they revealed Trump’s 1995 tax returns which they obtained from someone secretly mailing them to the newspaper.
Reporters have been demanding Trump’s tax returns for months.
But so far, the Trump campaign has been unwilling to distract from their message by giving into the media demands for Trumps.
The 1995 returns showed that Trump suffered significant financial loss.
The loss was so great, the law allowed Trump to use that money to cover future tax payments.
The Times speculates – without offering any evidence as backup – that Trump may have legally been pardoned from paying federal taxes for 18 years.
This is a common tactic.
The New York Times itself used losses to avoid paying any federal taxes in 2014.
The Clinton’s also used $700,000 in losses to offset taxes owed in 2015.
But what makes the Trump case different is how the Times came about this information.
Trump has not yet released his tax returns.
It’s illegal to publish tax returns without the filers consent.
Prior to the publication of this story, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet declared he was willing to go to jail to publish Trump’s tax returns.
Legal experts believe the Times will mount their defense that publishing Trump’s tax returns is protected as free speech under the First Amendment.
LawNewz explains why this defense could fail:
“A seminal case in this respect is the famous footnote 8 from the Florida Star case in the Supreme Court where the court left open the question whether “in cases where information has been acquired unlawfully by a newspaper or by a source” the government may legally “punish not only the unlawful acquisition, but the ensuing publication as well.” The Florida Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 423, 535, n.8 (1989). Notably, the Supreme Court left open whether The New York Times could have been prosecuted from publishing the Pentagon Papers, but at least there, the Times did not knowingly violate a specific criminal statute and promise to do so in advance of receiving the documents. The D.C. Circuit, in the McDermott case, implied the law did not allow a newspaper to publish material it knew, and admitted it knew, was obtained unlawfully, when a specific law prohibited its publishing…
…A simple surmise: Soliciting a crime (such as the unauthorized disclosure of tax returns) is not court-protected First Amendment speech. The courts have rejected First Amendment challenges to this specific privacy-protection statute so far, starting in the Richey case in the Ninth Circuit. New York Times Executive Editor Baquet’s public commentary (soliciting disclosure of Trump tax returns by acknowledging he would publish and “go to jail” for it) creates problems for The New York Times‘ First Amendment defense: the First Amendment is not a free pass to criminally invade the privacy of another by the promised act of publishing unlawfully obtained information, knowing it is a crime to do so. The New York Times itself recognized this when it attacked Trump for his joke about Russians finding Hillary’s deleted emails, suggesting, if serious, such conduct would be criminal. Did the New York Times forget the same rules apply to the New York Times?”
Clearly the Times did not have Trump’s permission to publish his tax returns.
However, Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples had her signature on the returns also.
Did she leak them?
If she did, the Times could have a stronger defense.
But if she did not, then this newspaper is in serious legal trouble.