Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday. Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) asks for a court order to enforce a subpoena requesting access to six years of Trump’s returns.
The commissioners of the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department are named as defendants. You can read the filing for yourself, at CNN.
Trump is the only modern president to refuse to disclose his tax records. Absent a law that requires the president or president-elect to release tax records, Democrats in the committee are leveraging Congressional power to gain access to the documents.
The committee filed the suit, alleging Trump violated the Constitution by refusing to submit tax documents under a law that gives Congress power to examine anyone’s tax returns for any purpose. The law states in part the “Treasury ‘shall furnish’ the Committee with ‘any’ requested tax return information.”
Neal claimed the request is motivated by policy, not politics.
“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,” Neal wrote to the court.
The lawsuit seeks the documents based on a claim of “multiple oversight and legislative purposes.” The ways and means committee has broad authority to ensure the IRS tax codes are appropriately followed and to identify the possible need for legislation to strengthen the ability of the IRS to audit a sitting president.
Republicans on the committee object to the lawsuit, calling it “baseless and dangerous.”
“The Democrats’ partisan, flawed lawsuit continues their unprecedented and illegitimate pursuit to expose President Trump’s private tax information,” top committee Republican Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said in a statement. “This is a dangerous course of action.”
Many Democrats believe that Trump has withheld his returns to avoid public scrutiny that might lead to investigations and audits, a theory presented by Michael Cohen before Congress last week.
Democrats have long sought information about Trump’s foreign earnings both before and during his candidacy. Of particular interest are Trump family records that would help determine if the family benefited from the tax code overhaul signed by Trump in 2017.
The Treasury refused to turn over the requested records after receiving a subpoena. The Administration denied the request after consultation with White House attorneys.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the subpoena “lacked a legitimate legislative purpose” when he refused to hand over the records. Mnuchin is named as a defendant in his official capacity in the lawsuit.
Trump has claimed he is under audit, something which cannot be legally determined nor disproven due to confidentiality. The IRS has said that there are no restrictions on publicizing one’s own tax records while under audit.
Republicans siding with the President believe that releasing Trump’s tax records to the committee would lead to the documents being distributed openly to the public in an attempt to harm the reputation of the president.
The lawsuit is the latest attempt by Democrats to unearth information which could inhibit the Trump Administration’s agenda and potentially spur impeachment proceedings.
“We are here today because Donald Trump and his enablers have sneered at our laws and avoided the thinnest accountability for their corruption,” Committee Member Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said in a statement.
“The Ways and Means Committee must file this action to stand for the rule of law,” he added.
The case was filed on July 2 in the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C.