Produced by Mark Seman & Anthony Kane
WASHINGTON — House Democrats are planning to ask for a confidential copy of President Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, but obtaining them won’t be simple or fast, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said during an interview on Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast. Beyer said Democrats will need a “good legal rationale” to request Trump’s financial documents, adding that he believes the questions surrounding Trump’s ties to Russia are sufficient reason to ask for the documents.
Beyer is a member of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means, which has the power to obtain a copy of President Trump’s tax returns thanks to an obscure law that’s almost a century old.
Trump’s tax returns have been something of a holy grail for Democrats who have consistently requested the release of the documents, particularly given the questions surrounding foreign business dealings at Trump’s sprawling real estate company. Beyer predicted that his committee will ultimately be able to get their hands on Trump’s elusive financial documents. But he explained that there are several obstacles to the process.
According to Beyer, the law allows “entities in Congress” to “request the tax return of any American citizen.” He said the Joint Taxation Committee theoretically could ask for the returns, but would be unlikely to do so due to Republican control of the Senate. This leaves the Ways and Means Committee, which is led by Democrats since they won control of the House last year. While Beyer said the Democrats on the committee have “begun the process,” he said it would be slow going.
“Our chairman, Richie Neal of Springfield, Mass., is going about this in a deliberate, thoughtful way. As he says, this is a really big, important, historic thing. He doesn’t want to not do it right. He wants to make sure that he’s crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s,” Beyer said.
Beyer said Neal had described some details about the process to his committee colleagues.
“As I understand it, at least as he’s explained it to us, the first step with his request is that the Internal Revenue Service will share it with him as the chairman confidentially,” Beyer said of Neal. “He will then review it and decide what can be shared with the full committee, and then ultimately, what can be shared with the American people.”
Trump became the first president in decades to break with longstanding tradition and not release his returns when he won the 2016 election. Democrats have consistently questioned what information might be in the documents, particularly given the questions surrounding foreign business dealings at Trump’s sprawling real estate company. Trump, who once promised to release the information, has cited a “routine audit” as why he has declined to do so.
While he stressed that he isn’t writing legal briefs on the issue, Beyer said he saw clear grounds for the request.
“There are so many suggestions that the president’s behavior with Russia, among others, … must be inextricably linked to his financial fortune. Why else would he give Putin a pass on damn near everything from Crimea to believing his intelligence rather than our own?” he said.
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Beyer also predicted that Trump’s attorneys and allies would fight the release of the president’s returns.
“There is also anticipation that the White House is going to fight back right away, that once that request goes to them there’ll be requests for injunctions,” Beyer said.
Based on that opposition, Beyer predicted that Trump’s returns will remain hidden through the 2020 election.
“I think we need to do the best we can to get them, but it has been suggested more than once that it could be tied up in courts for two years,” he said.
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