Lindsey Graham threatens to go after Dems' taxes — but Dems say bring it on
Donald Trump (Photo: By Nicole S Glass/Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — The House Ways and Means Committee voted 24-16 to release Donald Trump's taxes during an hours-long Tuesday meeting.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told Raw Story at the Capitol Wednesday that he would rather have seen the committee release a summary instead of revealing all of the documents.

"I don't like the precedent of one party releasing another party's financial tax documents, but I think they'd be better served just pointing out the areas that require additional consideration or perhaps legislative changes," Romney said. While it is unprecedented for a congressional committee to turn over such tax documents, the reason is that it was unprecedented for a president to refuse to reveal his information and skirt the mandatory audit.

When asked whether Congress should pass a law that mandates minimal disclosure for presidential candidates, Romney agreed, "I think that does make sense to say that someone running for president should release their tax returns. Whether they do that legislatively or not — I don't have the answer."

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He went on to say that the fact that Trump was able to dodge that much in taxes shows just how messed up the U.S. tax code is.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told Raw Story that he was supportive of the Ways and Means Committee because it was important to know if the IRS was performing the audits that they are supposed to do.

"It is now very clear that the IRS was asleep at the switch. You didn't see them for a number of years. So Ways and Means will pass a bill to make sure there are better audits of presidential taxes and we'll push it hard for it here in the finance committee. Second, because the audits are so poor, it tees up my legislation, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which would require nominees for the president to do what everybody's done for 40 years, which is show their taxes. So, it will be a two-step — really a three-step. One, pass the presidential improvements under audits. Second, I will push hard for the release of the taxes so people can get the full story of the taxes. Third, make it clear that there are a lot of other holes in the tax code particularly, large partnerships where people pay taxes like individuals. Even the IRS says there are loads of loopholes."

Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made it clear that he intends to use the move against Democrats. The problem is that Democratic presidential candidates have already turned over their taxes as have Republican presidential candidates.

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"I don't know. I don't know," Graham told Raw Story. "Anything they can do we can do. I think this is going to be limited to this period of time."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) agreed with Graham, saying that it sets a bad precedent.

Wyden's proposed law would mandate that exposure of taxes would extend to both parties. It's unclear if it was a bipartisan mandate if Graham would then support it.

When Grassley was asked if he would accept tax transparency for both parties he walked into the elevator and refused to answer. The elevator doors hung open for a moment as he stood there, staring at the wood paneling on the walls. There was no answer.

Wyden explained, that as someone who actually attends town hall meetings back home, one couldn't simply show up and say "no" to demands for transparency.

"They've done it for 40 years because there is a public expectation," said Wyden.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called for oversight of the IRS, noting that it's obvious that it'll be something to look into in the coming session.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) said that releasing Trump's taxes "does not threaten the rights of millions of Americans. It's about one office. The Presidency. It's about making sure there are checks and balances of the Office of the Presidency."

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) explained that they wouldn't have had to take the action they did "had we not got this information and had it revealed to us the extent to which he continued to avoid scrutiny. The audit was not initiated except for one tax year. Even the IRS doing the minimal scrutiny that the IRS was providing under their policy was not being adhered to. So, again, if Republicans want to have a conversation about the unprecedented nature of the last several years, this is not the point to start with. This is a Congress in which two-thirds of which attempted to overturn an election."

He sees "really serious questions" about the information in the returns that he thinks makes the case for Congress to codify the requirement for transparency.

Pascrell seemed exhausted from a five-hour committee meeting, but noted that he offered Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) a good-faith effort, twice, "to do this [the tax disclosure and examination] in a non-partisan way." Both times Brady refused.

But it was Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) who was quick to go after Trump specifically.

"I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised that he wasn't paying his taxes or under audit. He was given a pass — it's wrong. There were many, many things that were wrong with his presidency and after. We’ve all known he’s a fraud. This just confirms it one more time," she told Raw Story.

With additional reporting by Matt Laslo