House Democrats will hold their first hearing Thursday on President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which could set off a legal battle that could consume the legislative agenda.
Democratic lawmakers want to see Trump’s tax returns to ensure he’s complying with tax laws and untangle his financial connections, but administration officials and other Republicans are threatening to oppose any efforts to examine those documents, reported Bloomberg.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has handed off the matter to his oversight subcommittee and its chairman, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and not all Democrats have an appetite for the coming legal and political battle.
“I’d suspect that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at that already,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, “and hopefully it’s part of a report that is submitted to us shortly.”
Trump warned Congress in his State of the Union address to halt the various investigations into his business and political dealings, and Republicans have said they will call any request for the president’s tax returns a political witch hunt.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Democrats won’t be intimidated, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has suggested he might prevent the release of Trump’s tax returns.
A 1924 law authorizes the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to obtain the tax records for any taxpayer, including the president, which the Treasury secretary “shall” provide to them.
Mnuchin has said he would analyze any requests for Trump’s tax returns and respond if required by law, and Democrats could end up challenging the administration in court if they refuse to release the documents.
The ensuing legal battle threatens to derail the rest of the Ways and Means Committee’s other priorities, including prescription drug price reductions, overhauling retirement plans and rolling back portions of the GOP tax bill.
Lawmakers plan to build a case for Neal’s authority as chairman to request tax returns, and if the committee gets them, members can then vote to make them available to all House representatives — which would essentially make them public.
Democrats hold a 25-17 majority on the committee, so it seems likely the public would see Trump’s tax returns if Mnuchin turns them over.