House Democrats said they will release several years worth of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns in the coming days after a party-line vote Tuesday night to make the long-hidden filings public.
Lawmakers said it would take some time to first redact sensitive information from the documents, such as Trump’s Social Security number and address.
Details about what’s in the returns are still scant — but Democrats revealed that, though the IRS has a longstanding policy of auditing every president, the agency had not vetted Trump’s filings until House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) began inquiring about them.
Neal won access to the returns last month after the Supreme Court declined Trump’s bid to prevent them from being handed over to Congress. Neal had sued for the filings under an arcane law allowing the heads of Congress’s tax committees to examine anyone’s returns.
Even once they were in Democrats’ possession, they continued to be protected by strict privacy laws. Lawmakers could get around that by voting to make them public, something that happened Tuesday evening in Neal’s committee, where lawmakers voted 24-16, along party lines, to release them.
“We believe that it’s only days” before the returns are released, Neal said after the vote. “It won’t go well beyond that.”
The release of the returns is likely to be yet another black cloud over the scandal-plagued Trump, one that is sure to shadow his bid to return to the White House and raise uncomfortable questions for his fellow Republicans. Several news organizations have already reported on the scant taxes Trump paid over the years despite his wealth.
And it raises big questions about the IRS, as well about its failure to audit Trump for several years after he took office.
It is highly unusual for lawmakers to forcibly release private tax information, and Trump was not legally required to disclose his taxes.
But he defied a decades-old tradition of presidents volunteering their filings, incensing congressional Democrats who seized his returns under a century-old law allowing the chairs of Congress’s tax committees to examine anyone’s private tax information.
Many Democrats said the public not only had a right to know about Trump’s finances, they also said they wanted to know how vigorously the IRS was questioning the president’s returns.
Republicans scoffed, saying Democrats were simply looking for ways to embarrass Trump and warned Neal’s move would create a precedent that could be used against other people.
Democrats believe Neal’s power over Trump’s taxes will expire when Republicans take over the House on Jan. 3 so he’s been racing to act before then.
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