Trump biographer reveals how NY state investigators can get president's federal tax returns -- and make them public
President Donald Trump (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, financial reporter and biographer David Cay Johnston laid out a path for the state of New York to gain  access to President Donald Trump's federal income tax returns and put them into the public record.

According to David Cay Johnston, an investigation into Trump's foundation has already opened the door to a criminal investigation into his state tax returns which should mirror -- in many aspects  -- what he is reporting to the IRS.

As Johnston explains it, "On June 14, the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil complaint against President Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of 'persistently illegal conduct' in using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as 'little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.'"

Johnston said that if there is evidence of criminality, it opens up a whole world of hurt for Trump -- including allowing state investigators to look into his overall finances.

"A state or county criminal investigation that begins with abuse of the Donald J. Trump Foundation need not be limited to violations of charity and election law," he explained. "It can also examine his personal and business tax filings and, in the process, lawfully put his tax returns in the public record."

"New York State tax returns strictly adhere to the federal tax system’s definition of income, so an audit of Mr. Trump’s state tax returns would apply equally to his federal tax returns. If an investigation concludes that Mr. Trump cheated the state,Underwood and [Manhattan district attorney] Cyrus Vance Jr. have the authority to put Mr. Trump’s tax returns — both state and federal — into the public record by filing civil or criminal tax fraud charges," Johnston continued.

Johnston then elaborated on how far the investigation could go.

"On the surface, the numbers on Mr. Trump’s tax returns will appear to comply with the law, as did the summary pages of his 2005 income tax return, which I disclosed last year. But a criminal audit would allow investigators to inspect the transactions justifying each entry on the tax returns," he wrote. "Those transactions would reveal whether Mr. Trump engaged in money laundering for Russians and others, whether he fully reported profits from his more than 500 business organizations and whether he took unwarranted deductions or excessive expenses to lower his income taxes."

You can read the whole piece here.