Although a ton of other items remain on the agenda in the meantime, the 2020 presidential election isn’t getting any further away. Voters will have a chance to show whether or not they want current President Donald Trump to continue for four more years in office, and if a pair of House Democrats get their way, they’ll have Trump’s tax returns to use in making that decision. This week, Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.) introduced a bill that in short, demands that all presidents, vice presidents, and major party nominees for those offices release their ten most recent years of tax returns.
Up until the 2016 elections, releasing tax returns was standard procedure for presidential candidates. Trump, though, bucked the trend and decided not to, claiming at one point that he couldn’t because he was under audit by the IRS but would eventually. After he took office, his team indicated he had no plans to actually release the tax returns.
If they were to be made public, voters would be able to scrutinize his business connections, financial habits, and related issues. There’s been plenty of concern surrounding the Trump camp about business ties to Russia, as exemplified by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s recent sentence of three years in prison for crimes including lying to Congress about Trump Organization efforts to construct a Trump Tower Moscow. That effort was so intertwined with the Russian government itself that there was talk of Russian President Vladimir Putin getting a penthouse.
The building never materialized, but the issue highlights the type of concern surrounding the president’s finances. Eshoo and Pascrell were blunt in their assessment of the situation, hardly trying to tiptoe around the fact that their new legislation targets Trump.
As Pascrell put it:
‘Being able to scrutinize the tax returns of a man or woman seeking to occupy the most powerful position on earth is a low bar, and one that candidates long abided by until 2016. Americans have a right to know if their President is a crook. Imposing this requirement will ensure that transparency and ethical behavior are minimum requirements for any presidential candidate.’
‘Tax returns contain vital information for voters and the public, including whether an individual has paid any taxes; whether they made charitable donations; and whether they took advantage of tax loopholes or offshore tax shelters.’
There’s certainly been talk of pushing the president this direction before.
In fact, a recently introduced ethics bill that’s set for hearings and a vote in coming weeks includes a similar provision to what Eshoo and Pascrell have put forward separately, and additionally, state legislators across the country have sought to demand any presidential candidates on state ballots release their tax returns.
The problem remains that Republicans by and large refuse to get behind any such push. Therefore, the legislation House Democrats have put forward might be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.
House Democrats do have the opportunity to use their newfound subpoena power as the new majority to their advantage in this endeavor, however.
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