Key congressional committee demands to see Trump’s tax returns

Rarely-used tax code provision cited in request for returns from 2013-18 be released

 

US president Donald Trump is facing a new legal headache, after a key congressional committee demanded to see six years of the president’s tax returns.

In an unprecedented move, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee cited a rarely-used provision in the tax code, requesting that Mr Trump’s tax returns from 2013 to 2018 be released.

In a two-page letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner, Democrat Richard Neal requested that the president’s federal tax returns and documents related to several Trump businesses be submitted by April 10th.

“We have completed the necessary groundwork for a request of this magnitude and I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal, and oversight rights,” Mr Neal said. “My actions reflect an abiding reverence for our democracy and our institutions, and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.”

He said that Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, “has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials.”

“The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans - including those elected to our highest office - are complying with those laws,” he added.

Asked for his response to Mr Neal’s request, Mr Trump said that he would not furnish the tax returns as he was already under audit, setting up a potential legal battle with House Democrats.

“We are under audit, despite what people said, and working that out. I’m always under audit, it seems, but I’ve been under audit for many years because the numbers are big, and I guess when you have a name, you’re audited,” he said to reporters in the Oval Office. “But until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to [release the returns].”

Mr Trump broke with presidential tradition when he refused to disclose his tax returns on becoming president.

Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress last month that his former boss had misrepresented the values of his assets in his tax returns.

The move by Mr Neal - who is also co-chairman of the Friends of Ireland caucus on Capitol Hill and has warned that a post-Brexit trade deal between the United States and Britain is dependent on no hard border returning to Ireland - is the latest move by Democrats to hold Mr Trump to account.

Mueller report

Earlier on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the special counsel report into Russian interference in the election, setting up a potential constitutional battle that could end up in the courts.

The 24-member committee, chaired by Democrat Jerry Nadler, voted along party lines to use subpoena powers to compel attorney general William Barr to hand over the full report and underlying documents. Mr Barr submitted a four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s final report into Russian interference in the 2016 election 10 days ago, but declined to furnish Congress with the full report. He has since indicated that he intends to provide Congress with a redacted version of the report by mid-April.

Mr Nadler indicated that he would not use the subpoena immediately.

“I will give him time to change his mind,” he said in his opening statement. “But if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials.”

The committee also voted to subpoena five former White House officials, including former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, communications director Hope Hicks and former White House counsel Don Mc Gahn.

Following 22 months of investigations, special counsel Robert Mueller completed his report into Russian electoral interference almost two weeks ago. While the former FBI chief concluded that there was no collusion between Mr Trump’s circle and Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election, he did not come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice charges according to Mr Barr’s summary.