Trump defiant as Democrats prep push for his tax returns

President Donald Trump and newly empowered congressional Democrats appeared to be on a collision course over the release of the president’s tax returns, as a top Democrat signaled he would demand the information under federal law and Trump insisted he would attempt to block any release.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., slated to become the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, plans to insist Trump voluntarily release his tax returns, he said in an interview. If Trump doesn’t, then Neal will file a legal request with the Treasury Secretary that would require the returns be disclosed to a small group of people on Capitol Hill. He predicted the matter would end up in federal court.

At a news conference Wednesday, Trump said his tax returns were already under audit and therefore he would not release them. He said he might consider releasing them at a later date, something he has said since at least 2016.

“Nobody turns over a [tax] return when it’s under audit,” Trump said during a news conference when asked about the returns.

Janice Mays, who spent more than 40 years on the House Ways and Means Committee, including as chief counsel, said if Trump sought to block the release of his tax returns, Democrats could file a lawsuit, likely in U.S. District Court. Mays is now a managing director of tax policy services at PwC.

What the White House would want, Mays said, “is to buy two years of time” while the issue was bogged down by lawyers. And then the White House would hope “Republicans take the House [of Representatives in the 2020 election] and nobody is demanding [the tax returns] at that point.”

In the interview, Neal said Democrats did not win control of the House by promising to obtain Trump’s tax returns, and that it would not be the singular focus of his first year as chairman. He said Americans were more interested in issues like health care and Social Security, things he planned to focus on next year.

First published in The Washington Post

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