Some media members have suggested that employees who work at the Internal Revenue Service should leak President Trump’s tax returns since the White House has so far refused to release them.
The first person to suggest the idea was New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. In a tweet last month, Kristof said “But if you’re in IRS and have a certain president’s tax return that you’d like to leak, my address is: NYT, 620 Eighth Ave, NY NY 10018.”
But if you’re in IRS and have a certain president’s tax return that you’d like to leak, my address is: NYT, 620 Eighth Ave, NY NY 10018. https://t.co/ujYe100Tn9
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) March 6, 2017
And more recently, Chris Matthews, the host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, made the same suggestion to federal employees.
“That would be a good leak,” said Matthews. “Somebody from the IRS just leak it [Trump’s tax return].”
Another reporter commented that invitations have been going out to IRS employees for “months now” to do that and “to their credit, so far, they haven’t.”
The exchange is contained in the video clip above.
Portions of some of Trump’s past returns have already been leaked.
The New York Times received some pages of Trump’s 1995 state tax return, and Rachel Maddow provided two pages of one of Trump’s returns from ten years ago on her show on MSNBC last month. The pages were obtained by journalist David Cay Johnston, a former tax reporter for the New York times, and he said the documents arrived anonymously in his mailbox.
Potential Consequences for Leakers
According to 26 U.S. Code § 7213 – Unauthorized disclosure of information, it is a felony to knowingly disclose a person’s tax return 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.
An IRS employee who leaked taxpayer information would potentially be facing serious adverse action, including removal from federal service, as well as criminal penalties in according with the statute outlined above.