Will the Democrats be able to get Trump’s tax returns?

neal pic

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal

How badly do you want to see Trump’s tax returns?

Every presidential candidate since at least the 1970s has released several years of tax returns for the American public to see prior to the election. As we all know by now, that act of transparency is a tradition, and not a requirement of running for the office. (Just so you know, several states are working to change that but it remains unclear if it’s constitutional.)

As a candidate, Trump promised to release his tax returns after his “audit” was over but of course, he offered no proof that any audit was taking place, and even the IRS said an audit wouldn’t preclude him from sharing his tax returns. But like all of his other promises, he never intended to follow though on this one.

Why are Trump’s tax returns important?

Trump said he’d be a good president because the wealth that he accumulated was proof of his business acumen, and he could use that to help the country. If his wealth was his primary proof of his skill, then his tax returns would be the only place voters would be able to verify his claim.

Another important step that every president other than Trump has taken is to remove themselves from their assets so that they could make decisions for the country without anyone being concerned that those decisions were being made to benefit the president or his family personally. Trump’s tax returns hold a wealth of information about what assets he holds and where his money comes from, which is crucial to knowing how Trump could be influenced and where his conflicts of interest are.

Furthermore, as Trump has plunged the White House into endless stories of corruption, we the voters have every right to know how he’s shaping foreign and domestic policy to enrich himself, and why he bends over backwards for regimes that are not allies of our country. His tax returns could tell that story.

After his former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified, it also became important to see Trump’s tax returns to see if the president had lied about his income and assets in an attempt to commit insurance fraud.

Are the Democrats going to get his taxes?

House committees request documents from the administration all the time. The House could directly ask Trump for his taxes. But crucially, a 1924 law allows for the Ways and Means Committee to bypass the president and directly request the U.S. Treasury to hand them over. They are the only committee in all of Congress with that power.

The Democrats know that Trump will fight this tooth and nail. There is nothing he’s protected more than his financial records. If the Treasury refuses to hand them over, this fight will end up in court. And ultimately, it could end up in the Supreme Court. So, the Democrats have to be methodical and get everything about this request right.

The person leading this preparation and the fight is the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. He is working with a team of four lawyers to create an “air-tight legal strategy” to make this request successful. News outlets are reporting that they expect that the request will be made sometime in the next couple of weeks.

If the Democrats are successful, the tax returns would only be released to the committee members in a secured environment. The committee could vote to release the tax returns to the full House, but it would be up to the full House to vote to release the returns to the public.

Interestingly, it looks like Chairman Neal was initially going to have various hearings to build the case for the need to see the tax returns but Michael Cohen’s testimony last week essentially did that job for them. Thanks, Michael.

Now we wait.

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Categories: Explainers

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