WASHINGTON ― Most people want Democrats to get copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns and make them public, something Democrats said they would do but haven’t done yet.
Sixty percent of Americans say Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives should use their power to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Federal law lets certain committee chairs ask the IRS for copies of anyone’s tax returns. Republicans declined to use their oversight power to get Trump’s returns, even after he broke with decades of precedent by not voluntarily releasing them during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Now that Democrats control the House, they control its committees, and can make the request whenever they want. Some experts have criticized House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for not doing so immediately.
Neal says his committee is “methodically” drafting the request and plans to submit it this year.
“It’s going to involve precedent, it’s going to involve legality, and it’s also going to be ‘what do you do when you get them, if you get them,’” Neal told HuffPost earlier this month.
It’s possible Neal won’t be able to get the returns, at least not right away. A spokesperson for the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, said last year that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would review a tax return request “for legality” ― hinting that Mnuchin might not obey the law and that a long court battle could ensue.
“If it’s not done carefully and the case ends up in court, then it could conceivably be sent back to you based on procedure,” Neal said.
Liberal groups have spoken out against Neal’s delay. And so has Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow with the independent Tax Policy Center, who said it was a mistake for Neal not to make the request immediately. But he said it does matter how the request is made, and that it should relate to a legislative purpose.
“There are a variety of legitimate legislative purposes, including how the IRS is administering the tax law,” Rosenthal said.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) has defended Neal, saying the chairman is juggling the tax return issue with other committee priorities, which include not only taxes but also health care and Social Security. But Trump’s tax returns are still in the top four, he added.
“We got a lot at stake here,” Pascrell said. “We want to see if the president of the United States has a conflict of interest that he brought with him or that he created since he got here. The only way to do that is to get his tax returns.”
Unlike previous presidents ― most of whom released their tax returns as a matter of course ― Trump hasn’t divested from his businesses, meaning he could be making policy decisions that directly enrich his family.
In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 57 percent of respondents said they think Democrats should investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and 61 percent said Democrats should look into the president’s financial ties to foreign governments.
Even 39 percent of conservatives and a quarter of Republicans said Democrats should try to obtain Trump’s tax returns, which would reveal information about his sources of income.