Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns, Democratic Lawmaker Says

Frederick Owens
February 10, 2019

"It's not anywhere close", said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, a member of the 17-member conference committee working on the issue. "We didn't want the government shut down the first time", he said in a Bloomberg Television interview. And he broke with tradition when he took office without divesting from his businesses.

Although Trump warned Congress in his State of the Union on Tuesday that "there can not be war and investigation" if lawmakers want 'peace and legislation, ' House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff declared Wednesday that Democrats are not intimidated.

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

Those probes would add to the legal and political burden facing the president from Mueller's probe into possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian Federation, and a Justice Department investigation in NY into various activities of the campaign and Trump Organization, his umbrella company.

In early 2016, Trump said he'd release the returns after a federal audit was complete. It remained unclear following Trump's meeting with Shelby whether the president would agree to such an outcome.

The witnesses, however, argued that Congress sought Nixon's tax returns because they did not trust the IRS to properly audit the president's taxes without undue influence, and because tax returns contain different information than what's required by mandatory financial disclosures. Trump took great umbrage at the announcement, lashing out at Schiff and calling him a, "political hack".

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"Political donors? There is no end in sight", said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means subcommittee panel, at the hearing. The sluggish process - delayed by the five-week partial government shutdown and Neal's desire to carefully craft a legal argument - is making some anxious to move ahead. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., a former prosecutor, said he wants to defer to special counsel Robert Mueller when it comes to requesting sensitive documents like private tax returns, to avoid interference with that investigation.

The congressmen said if Democrats weren't satisfied with the annual audits, Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks and existing financial disclosures the president is subject to, they should "legislate a thoughtful solution to require additional disclosures" rather than "weaponizing our nation's tax code" by targeting political adversaries. "I don't know what those legal means are, I just would expect him to use every legal means", said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. A full-blown fight over the matter could derail Neal's other priorities, such as reducing prescription drug prices, overhauling retirement plans and rolling back some of the Republican tax cuts.

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. The legislation also would make it easier for citizens to register and vote, and ban executive-branch officials from lobbying their old agency for two years after they leave government.

Those committees can then release those tax returns to the full House or Senate if they choose. "If I choose to run, I promise I will absolutely release my tax returns".

"Like in any negotiation, if the Republicans and the White House are saying they need barriers, a wall, whatever you want to call it and that is an absolute objective, and we're saying we want some other things like in anything else it's a tradeoff".

"I've got to believe that the Mueller team already has their hands on the president's tax returns", he said. "Every single American has the right to privacy". 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.

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