If Democrats retake the House this November, they’ll be able to see something President Trump has been hiding for years: his tax returns.
The discussion around Trump’s tax returns was reignited on Tuesday by a wide-ranging New York Times investigation of what the newspaper described as a decade’s long pattern of “suspect schemes” to escape millions of dollars in tax payments. The article also showed that Trump, who has described himself as a self-made billionaire, benefited from far more help from his wealthy family that he has claimed. According to the Times report, Trump “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents.” Trump called the report a “very old, boring and often told hit piece.”
At a rare White House briefing on Wednesday afternoon, press secretary Sarah Sanders called the Times to report a “false attack” but refused to detail which assertions in the story were untrue. Trump resisted modern presidential convention by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign despite repeatedly promising to do so.
Democrats have repeatedly tried to access Trump’s returns but have been thwarted by Republican opposition in the House. since early 2017, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., has pushed the Ways and Means Committee, on which he sits, to request the tax returns, a resolution that was denied by the GOP members on the committee. An effort to get the returns through a full House vote also failed along party lines. Republicans have also rejected Democratic efforts to disclose the cost for taxpayers of Trump family business trips, which require Secret Service protection.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who would become the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee if Democrats win in November, told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he planned to request the returns if he took over the committee.
“President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments,” wrote Pascrell shortly after the Trump inauguration. “The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement. I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to use that power to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump’s tax returns.”
Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code allows the chairman of the House Ways and Means, Senate Finance, or Joint Taxation committees to request tax information on any citizen from the IRS. The committee could then vote on whether or not to make that information public.
“This has never happened before, so you want to be very careful,” Neal said of the process. Neal told the Journal he planned “to consult with his staff, Democratic leaders and House lawyers on how to analyze them and whether to make them public.”
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to search around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans? Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said in February 2017.
According to projections from the polling website FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have a roughly 75 percent chance of winning back the House in November’s midterm elections.