This week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) requested the last half dozen years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns from the IRS, and to the surprise of very few, the president is up in arms over the matter. Speaking to reporters this week at the White House, he claimed in response to Democrats’ request:
‘They’ll speak to my lawyers and they’ll speak to the Attorney General.’
What exactly is he getting at? To be clear, Democrats did not request the documents in question from either the Justice Department or the president’s own team, although a legal challenge from Trump to the move would hardly be a wide surprise. Still, to be clear, Democrats are seeking the documents from the Treasury Department, using the power of old legislation that grants Neal the right to view anyone’s returns because of his position.
The commentary follows similar rhetoric from the president while speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday, when he claimed:
‘I’ve been under audit for many years because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name, you’re audited. Until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to [release any tax returns].’
The IRS has made clear in the past, however, that no alleged audit would mandate that the president’s tax returns remain private — and again, the president’s own opinion on the issue doesn’t entirely matter right away because Neal sent his request to acting IRS Commissioner David J. Kautter. Neal wants details on any audits of the president besides the returns themselves.
There’s a possibility that Trump is referring this Thursday to having directed Attorney General William Barr to intervene in the case, the possibility of which remains high up there considering how many times he’s taken similar steps in the past. He’s done everything from try and pressure then-FBI Director James Comey to lay off former national security adviser Michael Flynn to try and get acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put a Trump sycophant in charge of the federal investigation covering the hush money scheme that’s sending Michael Cohen to prison. Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not exonerate the president on charges of obstruction of justice in the Russia scandal — toeing that line is pretty much one of Trump’s signature moves at this point.
Still, House Democrats certainly have made no indication that they’re keen on backing down from their push. Neal insisted:
‘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.’
The request has been a long time coming, with those on the left having hammered Trump over his refusal to release his returns essentially ever since the 2016 campaign season. In their sweeping ethics reform package known as the For the People Act, House Democrats included a requirement for presidential and vice presidential candidates from major parties to release their last ten years of tax returns.
The documents could reveal possible corrupting foreign financial ties Trump has maintained and, among other things, whether he’s guilty of the tax, insurance, and bank fraud that’s been alleged.
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