In a House Ways and Means Committee meeting yesterday, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) pushed on with his pressure to have President Trump’s tax returns released.
“This is going to come up over and over and over again,” he promised committee members.
In particular, Pascrell is asking for access to Donald Trump’s tax returns from the past 10 years.
For his part, the new president has refused time and again to release his returns voluntarily, citing an ongoing audit from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). His refusal broke with a 40-year tradition of transparency observed by presidential nominees and sitting presidents of both parties.
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Pascrell’s most recent push Tuesday followed his threat on Feb. 1 to use a provision in the Internal Revenue Code that can be used to compel a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation to request Trump’s taxes be released.
Dem Says Trump’s Tax Returns Are a Matter of National Security
This particular tax code provision – Section 6103(f)(1) – was enacted in 1924 in response to the Teapot Dome scandal. That scandal involved a bribery incident between then U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall and two private oil companies at Teapot Dome, Wyo. Fall leased land to these companies at low rates and without competitive bidding, which was against the law.
The Teapot Dome law was used in 1974 when Congress looked at President Richard Nixon’s returns. The law was used again in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the IRS’ handling of applications from conservative groups for nonprofit status.
Under this law, the chairmen of congressional tax policy-related committees can share the president’s returns with committee members in a closed session.
And if one of the committees thinks releasing the returns is a matter of public interest, he can press for that outcome, too… without Trump’s consent.
Democrats are arguing that examining Trump’s returns is absolutely crucial for two main reasons…
One, they want to know the fiscal specifics of Trump’s vast investment portfolio and business relationships — both domestically and abroad. In particular, they’re focused on whether any information in his tax documents might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting any “present, emolument, office, or title” from a foreign state.
Two, some congressional Democrats believe that a probe into Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security, citing both his international business affairs and the recent scandal involving Trump’s ousted National Security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn had engaged in illicit communications with a Russian ambassador not long after former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on the country last December. Flynn was asked to resign Monday night (Feb. 13).
“What happens if we find out that Flynn was just the tip of the iceberg?” Pascrell said yesterday. “What happens if the president has vast investments in Mr. Putin’s kingdom?”
But current Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has remained steadfast in his rejection of the Democrats’ arguments. When it came to Pascrell’s idea of using the Teapot Dome tax provision, Brady said, “[This tax code law] was granted only to enable this committee to carry out our responsibility to ensure the tax code is properly administered. I will not allow Washington to return to the bad old days when government officials used their power to intimidate, harass, and destroy their political enemies.”
Pascrell told the media yesterday that he suspects the Trump administration is intimidating congressional Republicans. So he intends to use House rules to force a vote on a resolution to request Trump’s tax returns. That would compel each House member to go on record on where he or she stands.
“If they stonewall it, it will be quite obvious [where their loyalty lies],” Pascrell said.
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