House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) on Monday announced that, despite the urging of a Democratic committee member, he would not request President Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury secretary.
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of a president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans,” Brady said. “Privacy and civil liberties are still important rights in this country, and [the] Ways and Means Committee is not going to start to weaken that.”
Brady received a letter earlier this month from Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) requesting that he utilize a provision in the federal tax code and request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department.
According to the letter, release of the documents would enable the Ways and Means Committee to review them in a closed session and assess whether to release them to the public. Federal tax law allows the chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation to make such a request, The Hill reported.
Pascrell claimed that the release of the tax returns would allow the public to make judgments regarding Trump’s conflicts of interest.
“President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments,” Pascrell stated in his letter. “The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement.”
Brady rejected Pascrell’s argument. “I’ve read his letter and I disagree with all of it,” he said. “And in fact, that letter misrepresents the legislative intent of that provision, which in fact creates confidentiality and privacy for Americans in their tax returns.”
In his letter, Pascrell cited the previous request and release of taxpayer information by the Ways and Means Committee during the investigation of the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status.
In that case, Brady asserted, taxpayer information was requested “to investigate what was clearly misleading information from the Internal Revenue Service as they tried to mislead the American public and mislead Congress about their targeting of average Americans based on their political belief.”
Pascrell responded to Brady in a statement Monday and claimed that using the committee’s power to share Trump’s business interests with the public is “Checks and Balances 101.”
“I hoped and still hope that my friend Kevin Brady will put country over party. This isn’t a partisan issue,” Pascrell said, promising to keep the pressure on Brady.
Trump is the first president in recent history to choose not to release his tax returns. During his campaign, he announced that he would not release his tax information while it was under IRS audit. However, the IRS asserts that nothing prevents someone from making public their own tax information.
H/T: The Hill
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