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California Supreme Court blocks effort to get Trump's tax returns

Law would have required disclosure to get on 2020 primary ballot

California lawmakers had attempted to require President Donald Trump to release his tax returns to qualify for the state’s primary ballot. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The California Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a state law that would have forced President Donald Trump to release his tax returns from the last five years in order to appear on the state’s presidential primary ballot. 

The California legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the law in July. But justices for the state’s high court unanimously declared that the law violated a provision of California’s constitution that requires “an open presidential primary” where the contenders are “recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States.”

The court said it may be true that tax returns would give voters important information.

“But Article II, section 5(c) embeds in the state Constitution the principle that, ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a ‘recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States’ to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”

The court directed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla not to enforce the law, which had set a Nov. 26 deadline for candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the March 3 primary ballot.  

In 2016, Trump became the first major party nominee since 1976 not to release his tax returns. The House Ways and Means Committee, led by Massachusetts Democrat Richard E. Neal, is trying to obtain those financial documents.

Todd Ruger contributed to this report.

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