Published: Sun, February 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

House Democrats begin hearings on obtaining Trump’s tax returns

House Democrats begin hearings on obtaining Trump’s tax returns

U.S. House Democrats and Republicans on Thursday clashed with each other over a bid to release President Donald Trump's tax returns.

"Where does it end?" Kelly asked. "What about the tax returns of the speaker?"

Democrats formally took control of the House on January 3, and vowed to aggressively pursue oversight investigations, which may include issuing subpoenas for potentially damaging documents and advancing the Russian Federation investigation. The investigation, Schiff said, would also explore whether Trump or his associates have "sought to influence USA government policy in service of foreign interests" and any potential obstruction into the various investigations.

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, now controlled by Democrats, listened to tax experts about whether or not it would be prudent to pass legislation that would require all future presidential candidates and their running mates to disclose their tax returns.

Since the 1970s, every president has released at least one year of annual tax returns.

Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss., a conference committee member, said he expects a deal will be reached "before the end of the weekend" and that aid for disaster victims would be included. "In the case of Nixon, the answer was 'yes, '" Lewis said.

That would give the House and Senate sufficient time to jump through procedural hoops and get something to the president's desk by next Friday.

"It's confusing to me", LaHood said.

Schiff said the investigation, which could involve additional congressional committees, would "allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the President or anyone in the administration".

Pascrell has been pushing committee leaders for more than a year to use their authority to view private tax returns.

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In early 2016, Trump said he'd release the returns after a federal audit was complete.

Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, expressed concern that such a refusal could break a historical record that has lasted over four decades. "We're going to have a disaster supplemental for the affected areas", he said.

The Democratic lawmakers faced stiff objections from congressional Republicans, who accused them of seeking to violate Trump's privacy, setting a risky precedent for political retribution and abusing the power laid out in the law.

The law, which Democrats can invoke without Republican approval, states that the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means committee each have the power to request taxpayer information and states that "the secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request". It is unclear how the agency will respond to that request and whether it will stall or resist efforts to turn over Trump's personal returns to the panel.

"In reality, this is all about weaponizing our tax laws to target a political foe", said Republican Representative Jackie Walorski.

The presidential tax return legislation House Democrats want is part of a 571-page election reform bill, the "For the People Act," also known as House Resolution 1. Prior to Trump's refusal to disclose his returns, it was more than 40 years since a president hadn't voluntarily disclosed his tax returns. Democrats are likely to sue if there is a delay, raising the prospect of a protracted legal battle that could potentially drag on to or even after the 2020 presidential election. "I think the idea here is to avoid the emotion of the moment and make sure that the product stands up under critical analysis", he said.

Count on it. Republicans are prepared to say that Neal's request is a political witch hunt, rather than legitimate government oversight.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said an accord could be "a good down payment" and added, "There are other ways to do it and I expect the president to go it alone in some fashion".

"A president of the United States is in a very unique position to individually do things, as this president has displayed probably more than most", Hoyer, D-Md., said.

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