The House Ways and Means Committee is meeting to discuss former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and weigh whether to release the information to the public, the end of a years-long effort by Democrats to learn more about Trump’s financial background .
Years of preparations for the highly anticipated meeting, which began in public but quickly descended into private meetings behind closed doors, gave Democrats just days to act on whether to release the former president’s tax returns. While Ways and Means has historical precedent for releasing confidential tax information, the decision to make it public will have strong political implications, as Trump has announced he will run for president in 2024.
The committee has secured Trump’s taxes for weeks after winning a protracted legal battle that began in the spring of 2019. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal is demanding the refund of Trump’s first six years of taxes as well as tax returns from eight of his businesses in April or 2019.
Neal and his top member, Kevin Brady, have obtained the information, and rank-and-file members of the committee will begin obtaining and reviewing at least some of Trump’s tax information, according to people familiar with the matter.
It was not immediately clear whether members had access to all the information.
Republicans on the committee are preparing to push back hard if Democrats vote to release any of Trump’s tax information, committee sources told CNN. The debate that Republicans will launch, however, will focus not on explicitly defending Trump, but on what the release will mean for future politicians and ordinary people.
The panel’s Republican leader, Kevin Brady of Texas, told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that releasing Trump’s tax returns would amount to “a dangerous new political weapon with reach far beyond the The scope of the former President, and overturn the privacy protections that have been in place for ordinary Americans for decades since. Watergate Reform.”
“We are united in our concern that Democrats could take unprecedented action today that would jeopardize the right of every American to be protected from political attack in Congress,” Brady said.
Democrats on the committee would legally release information about Trump’s taxes under Section 6103 of the tax code, but Republicans are prepared to argue that Democrats are abusing the provision, attacking political enemies and potentially unleashing a system that even individuals can Possessing personal information about themselves would be exposed if they were targeted by the commission.
The committee’s Tuesday meeting was underway, and the panel immediately voted to go into closed session. Members and staff in the room will be able to freely discuss the information contained in Trump’s tax returns and begin a debate about what to do next. Lawmakers are likely to make a decision Tuesday afternoon and then act quickly to release the information. However, it is unclear what they will vote on, but the vote will be open.
The committee will vote on what steps to take, but Democrats control the committee and are thus able to decide what to do with Trump’s tax information without any Republican support.
When Neal asked Trump for tax information in 2019, he wasn’t the first chairman to use a mysterious section of the tax code known as 6013 to gather confidential tax information. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has repeatedly used the same statute for investigations, and the Joint Tax Committee has also used it to obtain information on former President Richard Nixon’s 1970s taxes.
According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the information was requested and received without a legal battle. According to a House Ways and Means Committee memo released earlier this summer, Nixon voluntarily released some of his returns, but the JCT requested the use of 6103 for additional returns. Republicans have also used Act 6103. Back in 2014, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp led a committee that released classified tax information to further investigate whether the IRS was unfairly targeting conservative organizations when it decided to investigate groups.
While The New York Times obtained decades of Trump’s personal tax information as far back as 2020, Neal’s request could shed light on Trump’s finances in additional years and paint a picture of the former president’s struggles as he became president. A picture of how its business entity and personal wealth was used in the years before and after. president.
Trump broke with tradition in 2016 by refusing to release any of his personal tax returns.
Democrats have long argued that Trump’s taxes could provide necessary information on whether the president has any entanglements that could affect his decision-making as president. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have argued in court that they need Trump’s tax returns so they can better understand the presidential audit program, which is supposed to regularly audit the returns of every president-elect and vice president.
Neal didn’t just ask Trump for his original tax returns, however. Neal also requested administrative documents and paperwork, which could include notes from IRS officials or an audit of Trump’s returns. The information could paint a picture of what kind of scrutiny the IRS has conducted on Trump in the past and whether those scrutiny have changed since he became president.
If the committee votes to make the information public, it could reveal just how rich Trump is, how much he gives to charities and how much he pays in taxes. The New York Times report in 2020 made it clear that Trump carried forward years of business losses to be able to legally avoid paying taxes for many of those years, but Ways and Means would also receive additional years of Trump’s general tax.