Top journalists at two of the nation’s leading newspapers said they would fight, and even possibly risk jail time, to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, and Bob Woodward, associate editor of The Washington Post, made the comments during a panel discussion this past weekend at Harvard University.
Laura Poitras, a Holliston filmmaker who created the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour,” prompted the comments by saying Woodward told her that to publish Trump’s returns would be illegal.
“I think every journalist on the planet wants Donald Trump’s tax returns,” Poitras said, according to a video of the event provided to the Globe by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism. “Bob told me it is actually illegal to publish the tax returns if he were to seize them, and actually that a conversation and debate in an organization, that lawyers would say this is crossing a line.”
Baquet jumped in, noting that he would “seriously fight to publish his tax returns.”
“What if your lawyers say no?” Poitras asked.
“You know what your lawyers would tell you: If you publish them, you go to jail,” Woodward added.
However, Baquet said he would argue back, pointing to the fact that Trump’s “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.”
Woodward chimed in, noting that a Washington Post colleague recently said that “if we publish [Trump’s tax returns] and get them and get five years in jail, that everyone at the Post take a day.”
After discussing the issue a bit more, Woodward, added, “Some things you have to do. . . . This defines Donald Trump. . . . There’s a big hole here.”
Baquet became the Times’ executive editor in 2014; Woodward is known for his role in helping to break the Watergate scandal for the Post in the 1970s.
The panel discussion was held during a weekend event at Harvard marking the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes.