" The New York Times just published Donald Trump's tax returns without his 'affirmative authorization' as required by law. (see IRS Publication 4639). This violates the plain language of the law and is considered criminal if 'willful' ... Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged in a public forum ... that 'lawyers would say this is crossing a line' ... that 'lawyers would tell you if you publish them, you go to jail.'" - Robert Barnes, LawNewz, October 2, 2016. Here is the entire article.
The law on this matter is not ambiguous.
And Baquet's public statement is indeed a "smoking gun." Publishing the documents was not a result of ignorance or negligence. Clearly the decision was "willful."
In the article, Barnes presents other detailed information about the law, including U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Both lawyers and laypeople following this high-profile story of the publication of Trump's tax documents are aware of Baquet's verbal bravado. He declared he is willing to go to jail for this.
At Gawker, which no longer exists, founder Nick Denton had the same bravado about the right to publish a 100-second excerpt of Hulk Hogan having sex. The result was the lawsuit "Hogan v Gawker."
A Florida jury did not agree with Denton. The members of that jury awarded plaintiff Hogan $140 million in damages.
This may not be an aberration. Rather it could be a sign of the times.
Both the court of law and the court of public opinion may have had it with sensationalistic exposes which position and package themselves as journalism. And seek protection of the First Amendment.
Trump could bring down the New York Times Company the way that Hogan (with the funding of venture capitalist Peter Thiel) brought down Gawker and Denton.
This is the fascinating legal and media story, embedded in a political bombshell.