January 30 — Former IRS consultant Charles Littlejohn will be spending five years in prison after leaking former president Donald Trump’s tax returns, as well as returns from other wealthy individuals, to the news media.
Littlejohn has apologized and said he regretted it, but that didn’t help keep him out of jail.
He claimed there is a loophole in the IRS system that allowed him to release the information.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM wondered, “Does the former president go after the likes of New York Times for actually publishing this stuff when they knew that this stuff was hot or not?”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This guy, he asked for four months is what his attorneys requested in court yesterday. He was a government contractor, a third party vendor that was at the IRS for many years. So he gets the five years, but he leaks all of this to the New York Times. They had to have known that this was legitimately obtained. Not only was it Trump, but Elon Musk was in the mix, Jeff Bezos, other billionaires in the US. Could those people still sue this guy? Yes, they could sue him. The deep pockets would be the New York Times. Now historically, courts have given newspapers immunity when they publish things, think back to like the Pentagon Papers, other things like that. But in this case, could there be an argument that it was so egregious they had to have known this was illegally obtained, could a civil suit be filed? The Times is not out of the woods yet. It remains to be seen though, if Trump and Bezos or Musk might file a civil action.”
Ryan said, “Imagine that class action lawsuit. Bezos and Elon Musk and Trump together? You might as well just sell everything you’ve got. The New York Times will be out of business.”
Barkdoll noted, “Presumably the Times would have insurance coverage on this but not that much. You’re talking about people of this wealth, how would you ever compensate them?”
Ryan added, “What a great idea. The richest guys around to tie up that paper and legal mumbo jumbo, they certainly have the deep pockets to do that. For years. That would be great news. And so deserving. The Times will be the Old Gray Lady.”
Barkdoll said, “Of course the Times is a competitor to Jeff Bezos in the sense that he owns the Washington Post. So might that give him some incentive to take a harder look at this?”
Ryan said, “That would be great. And one guy who gets a $5,000 fine and five years. He should be in jail for a far longer time.”
Barkdoll agreed, “This is really an egregious crime, I think, because it undermines the public’s confidence in the IRS and the idea that he was able to just get into their system and kind of randomly pull people’s tax information and then give it to a news organization is just outrageous.”