By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Democrats exploring ways to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns may target the adequacy of the Internal Revenue Service audit that Trump often cites as his reason for not making the returns public, according to sources familiar with the matter. Such a strategy, focused more on the IRS than on Trump, could help Democrats craft an iron-clad legal argument for what would likely follow from such a request - an unprecedented court battle over the tax records of a sitting president. Targeting the audit would put the request for the returns squarely within the oversight authority of the House of Representatives' tax committee, which oversees the IRS, and deflect Republican accusations of a fishing expedition by Democrats unfairly targeting the president, the sources said. House tax committee Chairman Richard Neal, who has vowed to request Trump's returns, said this week that the long-standing audit claim could be the basis on which the committee ultimately decides whether to go to court to obtain the returns. The returns are expected to become an issue soon. A subcommittee of Neal's panel on Thursday set a hearing for Feb. 7 on "presidential and vice-presidential tax returns.” A spokeswoman said the hearing would cover "H.R. 1," a bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax records for elections. Another strategy for House Democrats might be to probe whether Trump profited from the Republican tax overhaul that he signed into law in 2017, or how his income could be affected by amendments to the tax code likely to come before the committee in months ahead. No decisions have been made, and sources with knowledge of the discussions could not say how much weight House officials working on the issue might give to any proposal. The deliberations reflect the caution Democrats are taking in launching investigations of Trump, his businesses and his presidency, now that they have majority control of the House. "The president has repeatedly said on the campaign trail and then after becoming president, he intended to do this, to release them, except that he was under audit," said Neal, the only House member authorized by law to request Trump's returns from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "So that's the basis we proceed on," Neal told reporters on Tuesday. "If we can't have a voluntary submission, then we use the legal apparatus that's available to us." A Democratic spokesman for the committee declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Treasury, which supervises the Internal Revenue Service, said Mnuchin will review the legality of any request for Trump's returns with the department's legal counsel. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 'SHALL FURNISH' As the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, Trump broke with decades of precedent by refusing to release his returns, saying they were being audited by the IRS. Many tax experts have replied that an IRS audit does not preclude their release. As president, Trump has retained ownership of extensive hotel interests and other business ventures. For this reason, House Democrats say his returns would be a linchpin for oversight investigations of potential ties between the president and Russia and other conflicts of interest. Federal law gives the chairmen of the House tax panel, the Senate Finance Committee and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the authority to request any return and says that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" it. Trump and Mnuchin are widely expected to fight any such action. The law has been used to obtain tax records, which are normally held in strict secrecy by the IRS. But in the interests of transparency, modern presidents have routinely disclosed their returns to the public voluntarily. Progressive Democrats and outside groups have ramped up pressure on Neal to act swiftly to obtain Trump's returns and eventually release them to the public. "The law is very clear that we're entitled to get those returns," Representative Lloyd Doggett told CNN on Thursday. "If the Treasury secretary... refuses to do it, then we will have to take some court action," said Doggett, a senior Democratic member of Neal's Ways and Means Committee. 'BAD PRECEDENT' Experts say an approach without careful justification could leave Democrats vulnerable to Republican claims of overreach. "It sets a very, very bad precedent. If they can demand that the public see the president's tax returns, what's going to keep them from demanding to see anyone's tax returns," said Representative Kenny Marchant, a Republican on Neal's panel. The legal strategy of focusing on IRS audits of Trump is only one option at Neal's disposal. "There's a variety of legitimate reasons for why Ways and Means would seek the president's tax returns," said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center think tank. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Dan Grebler)
- Yahoo News
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described a multipronged approach to combating domestic extremism.
- NBC News
"I couldn't believe it, it was like an animal. That's the only way I can put it, it was like an animal," the woman said of the assault in Harlem.
- The Telegraph
Russian police detained Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, at a protest in Moscow on Saturday as demonstrations in support of the opposition leader swept across Russia. Authorities detained at least 1,600 people at unauthorised rallies in Moscow and dozens of cities across the country, with some reports of violent clashes between protesters and riot police. At least 10,000 people joined protests in Moscow, according to estimates, in a test to Vladimir Putin. Protests began in Russia’s Far East and Siberia on Saturday morning. Seven time zones east of Moscow, about 3,000 people marched across the city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, chanting “Navalny!” In Novosibirsk, chants “Putin is a thief” rang out in freezing minus 19 C temperatures as opposition supporters walked across the city to the main square.
- Reuters Videos
A U.S. aircraft carrier group has entered the South China Sea, the U.S. military said on Sunday (January 24), at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan are raising concern in Washington. Just days into U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, which says its commitment to Taiwan is "rock-solid". The carriers entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air space in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands. The U.S. military said its carriers, led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, were conducting routine operations, quote, "to ensure freedom of the seas." Taipei reported more Chinese incursions on Sunday. China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has in the past few months increased military activity near the island. But this weekend marked an escalation. China dispatched fighters and bombers, rather than reconnaissance aircraft, as had generally been the case. Beijing has not yet commented. Washington urged China on Saturday to stop pressuring Taiwan and reaffirmed its commitment to the island and desire to deepen ties.
- Associated Press
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel will be closing its international airport to nearly all flights, while Israeli police clashed with ultra-Orthodox protesters in several major cities and the government raced to bring a raging coronavirus outbreak under control. The entry of highly contagious variants of the virus, coupled with poor enforcement of safety rules in ultra-Orthodox communities, has contributed to one of the world's highest rates of infections. It also has threatened to undercut Israel's highly successful campaign to vaccinate its population against the virus.
- National Review
President Biden will sign a fresh round of executive orders during his first full week in office, including actions loosening restrictions around abortion and immigration. Biden will issue and order to rescind the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. funding for foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions. The administration also dodged last week on whether Biden plans to scrap the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions under Medicaid. On immigration, Biden plans to establish a task force focused on reuniting migrant families who were separated as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, according to a memo outlining the upcoming executive actions obtained by The Hill. Biden will order an immediate review of the public-charge rule, which denies U.S. entry to migrants considered likely to become dependent on the government. The president also plans to roll back Trump administration policies on asylum and take “other actions to remove barriers and restore trust in the legal immigration system, including improving the naturalization process.” At the same time, Biden will take a page from the Trump administration’s playbook and sign an order directing federal agencies to tighten requirements on buying goods and services made in America from American businesses. Trump signed a similar directive during his first months in office. The president will also sign orders related to racial equity, including establishing a commission on police and bringing back Obama-era rules on transferring military-style equipment to local law enforcement. Another order will direct the Justice Department to improve prison conditions and begin the process of eliminating private prisons. Biden may also sign an order reversing a ban on transgender troops serving in the military. On climate change, Biden is expected to sign an order installing regulations to “combat climate change domestically and elevate climate change as a national security priority.”
- Associated Press
As a student in college and seminary, then as a pastor in Texas, Dwight McKissic has been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for more than 45 years. “It would feel like a divorce,” McKissic said. If he does, he would be following in the footsteps of several other Black pastors who have recently exited in dismay over what they see as racial insensitivity from some leaders of the predominantly white SBC.
A billion-dollar Mega Millions jackpot that has been building for four months will be up for grabs on Friday, available to whoever can beat the one-in-302 million odds. "We generally see a lot of the sales occur on the day of the drawings," Mega Millions spokesman Seth Elkin, of the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said by telephone. The selection of the six numbers will be the 37th semi-weekly drawing since the last grand prize winner was picked on Sept. 15, the longest jackpot dry spell Mega Millions has ever had, Elkin said.
- NBC News
Jenna Ryan was charged last week after federal authorities said she breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.
- Associated Press
Six months after his death, the late civil rights leader and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis will retain a palpable influence in Congress: The state’s two new Democratic U.S. senators — both personal friends and admirers — promise to carry on his legacy. Sen. Raphael Warnock was Lewis’ pastor and stood at his bedside before Lewis died.
- The Independent
Priest who attended pro-Trump rally ahead of Capitol insurrection is suspended from post and may be defrocked
Reverend Mark Hodges described event as ‘joyful, positive and orderly’
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
- Associated Press
Over a thousand protesters gathered in Jerusalem on Saturday for weekly demonstrations demanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu step down over corruption charges, as smaller protests were staged at intersections and bridges across the country. The protests have taken place each week since last summer, primarily at a Jerusalem square near Netanyahu’s official residence, and continued despite lower turnout in the cold winter nights. In March, Israel will hold its fourth national election in less than two years, and Netanyahu is facing further challenges from defectors within his Likud party.
A slim majority of Americans say former President Donald Trump should be convicted by the Senate of inciting an insurrection and barred from holding public office, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, which showed a sharp partisan divide over the issue. The national public opinion poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, found that 51% of Americans think Trump should be found guilty for inciting the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Another 37% said Trump should not be convicted and the remaining 12% said they were unsure.
- The Independent
Stainless steel Rolex worth $7,000 causes stir
- Associated Press
Ailing Pope Francis, who this week is making limited public appearances due to persistent pain, has drawn attention to the plight of homeless people in winter, including a Nigerian man who froze to death near the Vatican. Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for the 46-year-old man named Edwin who he said was “ignored by all, abandoned, even by us.” The pontiff said on Jan. 20 “a few meters away from St. Peter's Square, because of the cold, a Nigerian homeless man was found dead.”
- NBC News
Speaking with NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., called the impeachment trial "a moot point."
- Miami Herald
Six days after Daytona Beach area man Bobby Scott was last seen, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office arrested DeLand man Michael Harris Saturday night for Scott’s murder.
- The Telegraph
China ramped up its pressure on democratic Taiwan over the weekend, with an unusually large number of fighter jets approaching the island in a "test" for the new administration of US President Joe Biden. On Sunday, 12 Chinese fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, along with a reconnaissance aircraft and two anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. A day earlier, China sent eight bomber planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets to the same area to the southwest of the island, as well as one reconnaissance aircraft. On both occasions, Taiwan sent up aircraft, issued radio warnings to the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor their activity. Beijing claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, and has been angered by a show of increased US support for Taiwan during Donald Trump’s administration. In recent months, China has carried out frequent, at times daily, incursions aimed at pressuring President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to accept Beijing’s demand that it recognise Taiwan as part of China. These incursions have usually consisted of just one or two reconnaissance planes in recent weeks, rather than the warplanes seen over the weekend.
- Associated Press
Canada said its officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who has been held in China for more than two years in a case related to an executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Canada’s Foreign Ministry said officials led by Ambassador Dominic Barton were given “on-site virtual consular access” to Kovrig on Thursday. Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have been confined since Dec. 10, 2018, just days after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant.