Trump's tax returns and the coming Democrats are fighting to get them


The Liberals have been trying to get their hands on Donald Trump's tax returns for years. At present, Democrats holding a majority in the House with a power of summons, they have a real opportunity to obtain them.

But they have to be careful how they do it.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this month that she was aware of "impatience" in the matter but wanted to do it right. "It's not just about sending a letter. You have to do it very carefully, "she said, according to NPR.

The Democrats are studying an obscure law of 1924 that would allow them to seek Trump's return to the Treasury Department. Republicans and the White House are preparing for a fight and even Democrats seem divided on how they act aggressively.

There are many reasons why Congress wants to review a president's or candidate's tax return: these documents can help legislators identify potential conflicts of interest, suggest ways to reform current tax law, and to supervise the taxman to verify the taxes of the president and the vice-president. And in the case of Trump, the argument for revising his tax returns is even clearer. He refused to part with his vast business empire, and was asked questions during his tenure at the White House.

"The very clear argument is in favor of simply requiring [releasing tax returns] Joe Thorndike, tax historian and project director on the history of taxation, told me. "The problem is clearly bigger than Donald Trump, although it is the current problem."

How Democrats Could Get Trump's Tax Returns, Explained

Democrats seek to invoke Article 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, a law dating back to 1924. It authorizes the Ways and Means Committee to obtain information (personal or business) from the tax return of any taxpayer – including the president – of the Treasury Department. .

Basically, this means that the Ways and Means Committee Chair, Richard Neal (D-MA), would ask Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for Trump's return, and that, theoretically, he should comply. If it does not, a legal battle will probably ensue. The committee could then vote in favor of the disclosure of all or part of the tax returns to the rest of the House, so that all members have access to them … increase the chances that they would go out to the public. There is a debate as to whether this could then be made public; I'll come back to it later.

The University of Virginia Law Professor and former Chief of Staff of the Joint Tax Committee, George Yin, explained how the process would work in a testimony delivered earlier this month. He explained that the power of Congress to request information on tax returns had been added in 1924 as a branch of government on an equal footing, and that before that, only the president had the power to ask and disclose tax returns. By his testimony:

Paragraph 6103 (f) does not impose any conditions on the exercise of the power to obtain information on tax returns by the Committee of Ways and Means. Moreover, this does not allow the Secretary of the Treasury to refuse a request. I think both features were intentional. The president at the time enjoying unconditional access to tax returns, the Congress wanted to grant the same rights to its commissions.

In 1976, Congress made changes to the law in two essential ways for today. First, they removed language allowing the committee to submit only "relevant or useful" information to the House. But Yin says the committee still needs a reason to send information to the entire House. Second, they eliminated the ability of the chair and non-tax congressional committees to disclose information about tax returns to the public. But the tax committees still have this authority, namely the ways and means, the joint committee on taxation and the finance committee of the Senate.

In principle, a handful of committees can still legally request a tax return from a person and at the very least send it to the rest of the House or Senate, assuming their purpose is legitimate.

But that might not be a big obstacle. "The evidence that Trump has abused our tax laws is plentiful," Vox representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said in a statement, arguing that Trump's tax returns should continue under the law. Article 6103, basically since the inauguration of the latter. . He cited a New York Times investigation into Trump's and his family's tax practices, suggesting that the family was involved in a number of tax-avoidance schemes, as well as page leaks from Trump's tax returns. from 1995 and 2005; those of 1995 show a loss of nearly a billion dollars.

"Americans have the right to know if their president has paid his taxes, he has complied with the law and he is free from any conflict of financial interests," Pascrell continued. "The law is clear. Under 6103, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee is empowered to request Trump's tax returns – and the Secretary of the Treasury is required to deliver them. That's all we can say about it. "

House Democrats Condemn Pre-Existing Target Targeting Financial Targeting Law

Representative Richard Neal (D-MA), who now chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, speaks at a June 2018 press conference in Washington, DC.
Toya Sarno Jordan / Getty Images

Even if they have a plan, it will not be easy

Neal is proceeding cautiously to be as solid as possible if he asks for Trump's return. Dan Rubin, a spokesman for Neal, said at the beginning of the year at Politico that he wanted to "explain why presidents should disclose their tax returns before formally compelling him to do so".

But every time they go there, the White House promises to be ready. Nancy Cook, of Politico, said the Treasury Department "was planning plans to drag out the expected Democrat demand for Trump's earlier tax returns … into a legal quagmire of obscure legal arguments." In other words, Mnuchin will probably not be content to pass the taxes. A spokesman for the Treasury Department did not return a request for comment on their projects.

At the same time, Republicans are also defending Trump, trying to portray the Democrats' efforts as extreme supporters and claiming that asking Trump for tax returns is an invasion of privacy. They presented their arguments at a hearing before the Committee of Ways and Means on Tax Law and Legislation on Presidential Tax Returns at the beginning of the month.

"Every American has the right to privacy and personal information contained in their tax return," said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) at the hearing. He warned that the publication of Trump's reports would open a "Pandora's box" for Congress after anyone's return.

Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow of the Tax Policy Center who testified at the hearing, said the arguments on the slippery slope used by Republicans are absurd. "It's so different. [Trump] oversees the entire executive power. In my opinion, the entire Ways and Means Committee's request should continue to exercise its responsibility for legislative oversight, which is part of the checks and balances of the Constitution, "he said. .

It's hard to say if Trump's public statement is legal.

Richard Nixon was the first president to standardize the publication of his tax returns, when questions about his tax practices were revealed in the context of a lawsuit (with no connection to the Watergate burglary). He issued his income tax returns in December 1973 to dispel the suspicions, but that is not what happened: the joint tax committee found that it owed about $ 475,000 to the government.

After the resignation of Nixon, the presidents began to publish their tax information by tradition. Trump, however, has not published any books – and he has no intention of doing so.

Even if the Democrats get Trump's tax returns, it is legally dubious that they can make the information public.

Ken Kies, chief executive of the Federal Policy Group that Republicans called to testify at the hearing before the Ways and Means Committee, said it would be the responsibility of a congressman or member of Congress. staff to publicly disclose their tax returns, punishable by up to five years. in prison. Others, however, were not in agreement.

Lin said he thought Kies was wrong in his reading and that Trump's statements or their information, if they came from the committee in the House, could also be made public. "Submitting the project to the House creates an opportunity for public disclosure and, in fact, it was what Congress intended to do when it drafted the whole thing. of this provision, "he said.

Mr. Rosenthal agreed and referred to a two-party Senate Finance Committee report of 2015 finding disclosure of taxpayer information to the Senate and to the public as part of an investigation. to determine if the IRS had targeted certain political groups "is clearly permissible under Article 6103".

Republicans say they fear the Democrats on the committee will release Trump's tax information as soon as they get it. But we do not know how much water this argument holds.

"Republicans are trying to find a way to raise objections," said Rosenthal.

President Donald Trump talks with reporters after the signing of the law on the reduction and creation of jobs in the Oval Office in December 2017.

President Donald Trump talks with reporters after the signing of the law on the reduction and creation of jobs in the Oval Office in December 2017.
Puce Somodevilla / Getty Images

Democrats build their case

Democrats also seem to be trying to build a record for Why they look for Trump's tax returns to have a better chance if they end up in court – a likely outcome. They are on a stronger footing and are looking for Trump's tax returns outside of their legislative and oversight obligations and not because of a partisan fishing expedition.

John Kovensky at the Talking Points Memo conference recently addressed the issue:

The main test that Democrats will face in any future legal battle is to determine if they have established that Congress had a legitimate purpose in asking for return. Asking them to release them immediately, or out of spite or out of humiliation, could be grounds for a judge to overturn the application.

Some court cases serve as a precedent in this area. One is Kilbourn c. Thompson, an 1880 Supreme Court case dealing with the question of whether Congress could compel a witness to testify after the House issued a subpoena related to bankruptcy. The court essentially ruled that the nature of the dispute was between private parties and was outside the purview of Congress. Another is McGrain c. Daugherty, a 1927 affair linked to the Teapot Dome scandal, a corruption scandal within the federal government. In this case, the party summoned refused to comply with a Senate inquiry and the court found that Congress could compel testimony because, in that case, it was within its jurisdiction.

"My interpretation is that as long as the investigation fits into one or the other of these two responsibilities [oversight and lawmaking]this should be a legitimate objective, at least on the basis of this case law, "Lin said.

Democrats seem to be aware of what is at stake.

"I think the idea here is to avoid the emotion of the moment and to make sure the product stands up to critical analysis," Neal told CNN in January. "And that will be the case."

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