January 7, 2019
Americans for Tax Fairness—a coalition of more than 325 national, state, and local organizations that support progressive tax reform—reminded Democratic Congressional leaders this week about the “urgency of obtaining and publicly releasing President [Donald] Trump’s tax returns,” reminding them that “he broke decades of precedent and his own repeated promises by not making them public.”
The group argued that Trump’s returns could shed light on “the complex financial structures and tax loopholes used by the wealthy.” They also believe the returns to be “the best source of answers to vital questions about Donald Trump’s presidency—including whether there are any conflicts of interest and/or foreign influences that could be adversely affecting his exercise of official duties.”
In fact, in a new 21-page white paper obtained by NBC News, the group—which the network describes as “a left-leaning organization backed by organized labor”— said that securing Trump’s tax returns “is an important public policy objective and a legitimate exercise of Congress’s oversight authority.”
As NBC News reported last month, Democrats plan to use a 1924 law—26 U.S. Code § 6103—to compel Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to turn over Trump’s tax records to Representative Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), the newly designated chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The law appears to allow the committee to vote to make the returns public. Democrats say they expect that Mnuchin will not hand over the returns without a court fight, however.
Trump is the only major party nominee in the past four decades—other than President Gerald Ford— not to release his tax returns—and Ford released summaries of his returns. Trump has said he won’t release them because he is under audit.
House Democrats are pushing legislation that would require presidential candidates to release a decade of tax returns, aides told NBC News, but that bill’s chances of becoming law are uncertain.
The returns also are likely to provide information relevant to whether Trump’s public actions enhanced his private wealth, particularly in relation to his luxury Trump International hotel a few blocks from the White House, the report obtained by NBC News noted.
“The president has shown inexplicable deference to the leaders of foreign powers in conflict with the United States, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, raising the possibility that his business connections in those countries are influencing his conduct of American foreign policy and threatening national security,” the report says. “His tax returns and those of his business entities could provide evidence of foreign business connections that jeopardize his independence.”
“Obtaining the president’s tax returns is not some fishing expedition,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “The public has a right to know if the policies the president advocates are what he believes are in the best interest of the country or in the best interest of his personal finances.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment by NBC News.
Legal experts tell NBC News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller almost certainly already has obtained President Trump’s tax returns and other private business information as part of his investigation into whether Trump or his campaign coordinated with the 2016 Russian election interference operation.
But Mueller would not be able to make that information public unless it was relevant to a criminal case.
Research contact: @KenDilanianNBCAmericans