The time has come. After years of wrangling, Democrats have wielded a significant advantage in the fight to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns. This Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) formally requested the last six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, utilizing the power granted to him to view the traditionally confidential documents via an “arcane” law, as POLITICO put it.
‘It is critical to ensure the accountability of our government and elected officials. To maintain trust in our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government is operating properly, as laws intend.’
Although the move that’s been months in the making since Democrats got back control of the House is a significant step, it’s hardly a done deal. They don’t have the documents yet. Just last month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asserted to the committee that “we will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights” — meaning that a legal battle could be in the making over whether Democrats have appropriate motivation for seeking the documents. After all, despite the mountains of evidence surrounding the Trump team in the Russia scandal, the president and his allies have consistently decried the whole thing as a farce — even as the indictments kept piling up.
Still, House Democrats haven’t exactly proven keen on bowing to the president’s team’s demands. Considering they’ve already prepared for a number of legal battles with the Trump administration over the Russia scandal and related issues on which the president’s team is stonewalling, there’s no reason to think they won’t be seeing this case through.
The documents they’re after could have relevance for a wide range of lines of inquiry surrounding the president, from the question of what inappropriate foreign financial ties he maintains in spite of Mueller’s conclusion of no prosecutable conspiracy with Russia to the possibility that he’s benefited greatly from various forms of fraud. During his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen specifically called out Trump’s tax returns as a source for more information for those concerned about that fraud he and others have alleged.
Trump claimed during the campaign that he’d eventually release his tax returns, but quickly dropped the promise after taking office. At his post-midterm elections press conference, he claimed that most Americans wouldn’t even be able to understand the material — which is a shoddy at best excuse for keeping the documents under wraps.
Concerned interests have sought the president’s tax returns through other means already, although Neal’s Wednesday letter to the Treasury Department is the most direct. Still, Democrats included a requirement for major party candidates for president and vice president to release the past ten years of their business and personal tax returns in their recent For the People Act, a sweeping ethics and electoral reform package.
In an Oval Office press availability, Trump told a reporter asking about Neal’s request that he wouldn’t release the returns because he’s supposedly under audit, although the IRS has insisted that does not demand they still private.
Featured Image via screenshot