Donald Trump has now hired a legal firm to make the argument – apparently to the public – that he has no real connections to Russia, and that his explosive Russia scandal isn’t real. That firm announced today that Trump has no income from Russia, with “few exceptions” (source: NY Times). That phrase alone has turned into a social media trending gaffe. But it may not represent the real damage Trump’s legal stunt did to him today.
Influential attorney Alan Dershowitz appeared live on MSNBC today and shared his professional view that the assertions made by Donald Trump’s attorney have served to forfeit IRS confidentiality when it comes to Trump’s tax returns. Of course this is merely his legal interpretation. But if you ask any first year law student, they’ll explain that confidentiality and privilege do come down to the “shield vs sword” metaphor.
As long as you only use confidentiality as a shield with which to defend yourself, it remains legally valid. But if you begin trying to use your own confidentiality as a sword with which to go on the attack, you’ve generally waived that confidentiality whether you intended to or not. It’s nearly a given that Donald Trump’s lawyers know this. But if he’s demanding the advice of his attorneys and demanding that they carry out this publicity stunt anyway, then here we are. And this has very real legal implications.
It’s not that the IRS is suddenly going to voluntarily decide to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns, simply because he and his attorney forfeited confidentiality. That won’t happen. But there are lawsuits already underway aimed at exposing Trump’s tax returns. Those plaintiffs can now argue in front of a judge that they’re entitled to those tax returns, because as of today’s antics, they’re no longer confidential. Whatever Trump is trying to convince the public of when it comes to Russia with this stunt, it may have just catastrophically backfired on him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report