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Vice News Investigative Reporter Sues IRS for Donald Trump’s Tax Audits

”We believe this can be done,“ Jason Leopold, who successfully sued for the release of 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails earlier this year, tells TheWrap

Vice News is suing the IRS to get Donald Trump’s tax returns audits.

On Monday, the site filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., demanding that the IRS turn over all audits of Trump’s tax returns from 2002 onward.

“Trump has said repeatedly that he would love to turn over his taxes, but can’t because they are under audit,” the news site argues in the lawsuit obtained by TheWrap. “The official website for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign contains a letter from Mr. Trump’s personal tax counsel indicating that the IRS has and continues to audit his individual income tax returns.”

But the site, like many of Trump’s critics, isn’t buying. Critics argue that Trump’s excuse is highly-convenient considering the IRS is prohibited under the law from commenting on audits. Meanwhile, Trump has refused to release any proof that he’s under an audit. (When asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday whether Trump might release anything from the IRS proving that he’s under audit,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway responded: “Are you calling him a liar?” But never actually answered the question).

“We would not be filing a lawsuit that would be frivolous,” Vice investigative reporter Jason Leopold, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told TheWrap “We believe this can be done.”

While Leopold declined to elaborate on his exact strategy, it’s interesting to note that the complaint quotes IRS Commissioner Koskinen saying it’s “rare” for an individual to be audited year after year, as Trump has repeatedly claimed.

Perhaps Vice is banking on the idea that the IRS would not be making such a declarative statement if it was auditing Trump year after year.

Both the IRS and tax experts have said there is nothing to stop Trump from releasing his tax returns, something every Republican presidential candidate has done since Richard Nixon … who incidentally was under IRS audit at the time.

But Trump insists his lawyers have advised him not to release them because it might tip off auditors to look into specific areas of his returns.

Making matters even stickier … The last time Trump’s returns were made public, he paid $0 in income taxes.

Leopold, who successfully sued for the release of 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails earlier this year, is also suing the FBI to see if the government has been investigating Trump for suggesting Second Amendment advocates could stop Hillary Clinton, a remark that was interpreted by many as threat of violence, as well as Trump’s recent comments inciting the Russian government to hack into Clinton’s emails.

“We know that the Secret Service said it was looking into it,” Leopold said. “We want any relevant documents.”

Again, even a standard response from the FBI saying it can’t comment on a pending investigation would tell Vice and other reporters there is an on-going investigation, which in itself would be newsworthy.

While there is no guarantee either of these lawsuits will work, Vice says its confident they will be successful.

“Would it be a game-changer? I don’t know,” Leopold said. “But it could prove that he’s been telling the public a flat-out lie.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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