One of the few Republicans with the power to request President Donald Trump’s tax returns wants to make sure that if House Democrats are successful in getting them, he wants to see them, too.
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“If the House of Representatives gets them, I want the Senate Finance Committee to get them,” the panel’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told reporters Wednesday.
Grassley is one of the few members of Congress, as the head of the Senate tax-writing committee, who has the authority to view the returns of any taxpayer, including the president’s. His counterpart in the House, Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is moving toward asking the U.S. Treasury Department to hand over Trump’s tax documents.
Neal has declined to give a timetable for when he will submit his request, but Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat, says his “gut feeling” is that the Ways and Means Committee is about two weeks away from sending the formal inquiry to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Grassley’s wish to see any tax documents that Treasury hands over to the Democrats foreshadows preparations on both sides for the partisan battle that would likely ensue if the documents became public.
Democrats say they are demanding Trump’s returns to investigate whether he has complied with tax laws, to examine his business dealings overseas and to figure out who his debtors are. Republicans argue that Democrats are abusing their authority to single out a political foe and invading Trump’s privacy.
Presidents are not required to release their tax returns but it has been a voluntary practice of White House candidates for the last 40 years. Trump’s were of particular interest because of questions swirling about the global real estate empire he built before becoming president and the fact that, unlike his predecessors, he did not divest his business holdings when he won the election.
Neal has been working on how to craft this request since Democrats regained control of the House in January. Once the request is satisfied — and it’s not at all certain that Mnuchin will comply — the Ways and Means Committee could then vote to make Trump’s tax history public.
Grassley, who said he’d prefer that no one sought the president’s tax returns, warned that if they do get them, Democrats must keep the documents safe from leaks. They “have to keep them all secure,” he said.
Progressive Democrats and outside groups are pressuring Neal to move more quickly.
If Mnuchin denies or slow-walks the request, Democrats are likely to sue, which could lead to a protracted legal battle to obtain the documents.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, on Monday sent demands for information from dozens of people and entities with ties to Trump, including the White House, the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr.