House Democrats just pulled a gutsy move to obtain Trump’s tax returns

Either the Internal Revenue Service is taking an extraordinarily long time to audit the taxes that President Trump swore he’d release once the IRS review was done or he was — gasp! — lying to the American people about ever intending to do so.

Ever since Trump broke the precedent set by every other president in the modern era by refusing to disclose his tax returns for public inspection, people have been calling for the president to make the voluntary disclosure of his returns.

His failure to do so has set off speculation as to the reasons why he may be so reluctant to make the tax filings public — ranging from the possibility that they will disclose the magnitude by which he has exaggerated his wealth to the incriminating information they could hold regarding the sources of his loans and the business arrangements he may have with people (or nations) with less than reputable standings.

Today, the prospect of at least some members of Congress getting a peek at President Trump’s tax returns increased significantly when — after months of requesting, cajoling, pleading and threatening — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) filed a formal request with the Internal Revenue Service for six years of Trump’s personal tax returns covering 2013 to 2018, as well as the tax returns of eight of Trump’s business entities.

Congressman Neal sent a letter to the IRS citing an obscure code in the agency’s regulations to justify his committee’s right to receive copies of the returns as part of its oversight duties and in order to consider whether Congress may need to pass legislation concerning the IRS’s practice of auditing sitting presidents, according to CNN.

“Under the Internal Revenue Manual, individual income tax returns of a President are subject to mandatory examination, but this practice is IRS policy and not codified in the Federal tax laws,” the Ways and Means chairman wrote to the IRS. “It is necessary for the committee to determine the scope of any such examination and whether it includes a review of underlying business activities required to be reported on the individual income tax return.”

Representative Neal emphasized to CNN that the request was more about policy than politics.

“My preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the administration,” Neal said. “My actions reflect an abiding reverence for our democracy and our institutions, and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.”

While Rep. Neal set a deadline of April 10th for the IRS to comply with his request, it would be foolish to sit waiting breathlessly at your computer on that day waiting for any deliciously scandalous morsels of info to leak. The chances of the IRS — which as part of the executive branch of government ultimately reports to the president — handing over the Trump tax filings without an intervening court battle that could take years to resolve are as slim as an aspiring runway model.

Under IRS regulations, only Congressman Neal and his Senate counterpart Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) can request an individual’s tax returns. Until the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in January, the refusal of the Republicans holding all of the strings to make such a request has kept Trump’s tax filings one of the grand mysteries of our time.

When the expected legal wrangling is completed, it’s likely that only Congressman Neal himself will be viewing them despite the fact that the Democratic leaders of multiple House committees have requested access to them. The IRS regulations specify that only the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee can be provided with the requested returns.

Hopefully any lawsuits to gain access to Trump’s tax returns will be completed before the date of the 2020 elections, otherwise, we’ll have to hope that we find out their contents from the investigations currently underway by the federal prosecutors digging into the misdeeds of Trump’s business empire in the Southern District of New York.

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Original reporting by Lauren Fox at CNN.

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.