President Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republican National Committee filed a pair of lawsuits on Tuesday challenging a new California law that requires all presidential and gubernatorial candidates to publicly release their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot.
The action comes about a week after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed that law aimed at Trump, who has famously refused to release his tax returns. Newsom, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra are named as defendants in the suits.
Both lawsuits assert that the California legislation violates the U.S. Constitution.
“The Democratic Party is on a crusade to obtain the President’s federal tax returns in the hopes of finding something they can use to harm him politically,” the lawsuit from Trump’s camp argues. “In their rush to join this crusade, California Democrats have run afoul of these restrictions on State power over federal elections.”
The RNC lawsuit calls the California law “a naked political attack against the sitting President of the United States” that would disenfranchise voters.
Newsom responded to the suits with this statement: “There’s an easy fix for the President. He should release his tax returns as he promised during the campaign and follow the precedent of every president since 1973.”
When reached for comment, Padilla said the California law is important for maintaining transparency: “Voters deserve to know if candidates for the highest office in the United States — who will make economic and military decisions with global repercussions — have any possible financial conflicts of interest.”
Becerra’s office said it will be representing the state in the matter and is ready to “defend California’s laws and statutes.”
Trump, the first president in four decades to not release his tax returns, is also suing New York state officials and the House Ways and Means Committee over their efforts to force the release of his tax returns.
On Monday, the conservative activist group Judicial Watch announced that it filed a similar action against California on behalf of four voters.
In addition to contending that the state statute illegally creates new qualifications for those running for president, the Judicial Watch suit argues that the law could lead to a dangerous domino effect, in which states demand access to candidates’ “medical records, mental health records, sealed juvenile records, driving records, results of intelligence, aptitude, or personality tests, college applications, Amazon purchases, Google search histories, browsing histories, or Facebook friends.”
Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown (D), raised that same concern when he vetoed similar legislation in 2017.
Mollie Reilly contributed reporting.
The story has been updated with comment from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.