Now more than three weeks into his presidency, Donald Trump has yet to release his tax returns to the public, citing the excuse that his businesses are being audited throughout the campaign trail. One report by the New York Times prior to the election revealed that Trump had spent almost two decades evading taxes.
However, now that Trump is in office and the immense issue of his political influence and host of global family businesses presents numerous conflicts of interest, it’s becoming increasingly necessary for him to release relevant documents for the sake of transparency. Otherwise, it’s entirely possible that any decision his administration makes could be to advance his business interests at the expense of the American people.
Still, despite a petition calling for Trump’s tax returns garnering hundreds of thousands of signatures, Trump remains steadfast in his refusal.
— Alt Dept of State (@AltStateDpt) February 11, 2017
But on Friday, New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell cited an obscure law that just might require Trump to give in.
The law, quietly established in 1924, authorizes congressional committees that set tax policy to examine tax returns. The law was used in 1974 when it allowed Congress to examine President Richard Nixon‘s returns, and just in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s examination of nonprofit status applicants.
Pascrell is a Democratic representative from Paterson, New Jersey who serves on the Ways and Means Committee. On Friday, Pascrell asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, to order the Treasury Department to provide Trump’s tax returns to the committee.
“The Presidential campaign is over and the fear that a political opponent will try to use tax returns for electoral benefit is passed,” Pascrell wrote. “President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments. The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement.”
“This isn’t for the Democrats or the Republicans, and it’s not to embarrass anybody,” Pascrell said according to USA Today. “This is to make sure the American people know the facts, and if there are conflicts, they need to be resolved.”
The move seeks to uncover the last 10 years of Trump’s tax returns.
Neither Rep. Brady nor President Trump has yet to comment Pascrell’s invocation of the 1924 law.
Update: According to USA Today, Rep. Brady rejected Pascrell’s effort.
“If Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the President, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” Brady said. “Privacy and civil liberties are still important rights in this country and the Ways and Means Committee is not going to start to weaken them.”
“I hoped and still hope that my friend Kevin Brady will put country over party,” Pascrell responded.
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