Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Lexington, Kentucky, US. File photo/ AP
California’s Supreme Court is considering on Wednesday whether President Donald Trump must disclose his tax returns if he wants to be a candidate in the state’s primary election next spring.
The high court is hearing arguments even though a federal judge already temporarily blocked the state law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to be included in the state’s primary.
The justices’ consideration comes the same week that a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump’s tax returns can be turned over to state criminal investigators there, although that ruling is expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The California Republican Party and chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson filed the state lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing in July of the law aimed at the Republican president.
It’s a clear violation of the California Constitution, opponents argued, citing a 1972 voter-approved amendment they said guarantees that all recognized candidates must be on the ballot.
Previously, “California politicians rigged the primary election, putting up ‘favorite son’ nominees for partisan political advantage,” they wrote, suggesting that Democratic lawmakers are doing the same thing now by different means.
The opponents said keeping Trump off the ballot could lower voter turnout in the primary, hurting Republican legislative and congressional candidates’ chances of reaching the general election. That’s because California’s top-two primary system sends the two highest vote-getters in the primary to the general election regardless of party.
But the state’s lawyers said it’s a common-sense requirement so that voters can gauge candidates’ “financial status and honesty concerning financial matters.”
The justices sped up their usual timetable to hear the arguments because the deadline to file tax returns for California’s March 3 presidential primary would be Nov. 26 if the law survives.
But the state’s appeal of the federal judge’s order will extend past the deadline, with the next court filings not due to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals until December. State officials would not say why they have not sought a faster review or if that means they are giving up on getting Trump’s returns in time for next year’s election.
Most major Democratic presidential candidates already publicly disclosed their personal income tax returns. Trump broke with decades of tradition in refusing to release his returns, citing an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit.
California was the first state to require political candidates to disclose their personal income tax returns. New York state passed a law giving congressional committees access to Trump’s state tax returns, which Trump has also challenged in court.
The situation in the New York case is much different, with the appeals court ruling that Trump’s tax returns can be turned over to a grand jury that would usually keep them from public view.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is seeking the returns as part of a broader investigation that includes payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, both of whom claim they had affairs with the president before the 2016 presidential election.
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