President Donald Trump’s tax returns will be a top priority next year if Democrats take the House and the oversight power that comes with it, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Pelosi said obtaining the tax returns would be “one of the first things we’d do” and the “easiest thing in the world” during an interview Wednesday with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board.
Trump is the first President in the modern era not to release any personal tax returns, something Democrats and activists have been clamoring for throughout his presidency. Those calls especially ramped up after The New York Times broke a major story last week alleging that Trump engaged in tax fraud to assist his father — something Trump has denied vehemently.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pelosi said a hunt for the President’s taxes would not be an act of revenge by Democrats but rather an act of oversight from “a co-equal body of government.”
“We have to have the truth,” she said.
Such documents would reveal how much income Trump made from a variety of sources, how much he claimed in deductions (including how much he gave to charity), and how much he paid in taxes.
Even further, his tax returns could help shed light on any potential conflicts of interests, such as whether he has foreign bank accounts, whether he paid taxes to foreign governments and whether he’d benefit from his own tax reform proposals.
Trump has filed his annual financial disclosure the past two years, which show a range of his earnings from the two years prior, but his tax returns could answer far more questions about his wealth.
The House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee are the two committees that could request the returns if Democrats take the majority, and discussions are ongoing about how the House Ways and Means Committee would go about obtaining the returns as well as how many returns they would seek.
While Pelosi described requesting the documents as easy, committee aides say actually obtaining them could wind up being a lengthy, complex legal battle that could push the Democrats into a place where the 2020 campaign is well underway and they are still fighting for the returns. If either of the respective committees move forward on this issue, they would formally request the documents from the Internal Revenue Service. At that point, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin could potentially decline the request, which could prompt a months-long court battle between Congress and Treasury.
Depending on how things go legally, the two entities could possibly end up reaching a settlement in which Treasury releases only a certain amount of tax returns. Then the committees would go into closed session to review them and vote on whether to release them to the rest of Congress, thus making them public.
The Joint Committee on Taxation could also be asked to do an audit.
“Bottom line: It’s going to take forever,” said one committee aide.
The other question is whether Trump’s personal tax returns would be enough to satisfy the base or would there be a push to also go after Trump’s corporate returns, something that could shed more light on the President’s business dealings but could also lead to more cries of partisanship.
Trump said in 2016 that he’d release his tax returns after the IRS was done auditing them, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters last week that “a number of his taxes are still under audit.”
However, in the past two years, Trump has also said that he “might release them after I’m out of office” and questioned the point of releasing them in the first place, arguing, “you learn very little from a tax return.”
As with other potential investigations on Capitol Hill, one Democratic leadership aide pointed out that discussions about tax returns or other investigations are still in the early stages and it is a delicate balance between Democrats trying to be prepared for a potential win in November but not getting so far ahead of themselves that they count on a victory too soon.
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