House Dems Lay The Groundwork For Obtaining Donald Trump's Tax Returns

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"Where does it end?"

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon to discuss the legality of presidential and vice presidential tax returns. With full knowledge of this fact, the American people elected him president, and under federal law he is entitled to the same privacy and legal protections as any other American citizen.

Thursday's hearing is focused on Democrats' wide-ranging ethics reform legislation, HR1, which would require by law future presidential candidates release 10 years worth of returns.

Democrats say they want to see Trump's returns to be sure he's complying with tax laws, to examine his financial connections overseas, and find out to whom he owes money.

Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., quizzed the panel of experts whether a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has ever sought a president's tax return while there was an ongoing Justice Department independent counsel investigation. "Period", Pascrell said later in the hearing after Republicans accused Democrats of abusing their oversight authority.

Presidents used to be able to request the information as well, but Richard Nixon's misuse of taxpayer data in the 1970s prompted Congress to repeal that provision while making it easier for the tax committees to get the returns.

Although officials have already narrowed down some suspects, they say more research will be conducted before action is taken.

Cohen, who was a senior executive in the Trump Organization, was to be the committee's first witness Friday in a closed session, before he begins a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion and other crimes he said were undertaken at Trump's bidding.

Pascrell was referring to a 1924 law that allows the chairs of Congress's tax committees to look into anyone's confidential returns.

The practice of unilaterally releasing tax returns would set a risky precedent eroding our most basic privacy rights.

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"The president's actions and posture towards Russian Federation during the campaign, transition, and administration have only heightened fears of foreign financial or other leverage over President Trump", Schiff said in a statement Wednesday.

Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, expressed concern that such a refusal could break a historical record that has lasted over four decades.

The assessments came the day after the top Democrat and Republican on the conference committee negotiating a deal said they're nearing an accord but the process may go into the weekend.

House Democrats have devoted themselves to a pledge to investigate President Trump at every turn, but when it comes to releasing his tax returns members are preparing for what could be a slow road ahead.

The decision of how to handle a request for Trump's returns will fall to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the President's closest confidants and earliest backers. "The law is on our side".

Thursday's hearing is created to build a case for Neal's authority to request Trump's returns, said Andy Grewal, a tax law professor at the University of Iowa. "In terms of the tax issue, it's not a question of just sending a letter".

The disconnect has progressive and freshman lawmakers anxious since many of them campaigned in part on going after Trump's tax returns. That sets up the possibility of a legal battle that could take years to resolve, possibly stretching beyond the 2020 presidential election. "I think the idea here is to avoid the emotion of the moment and make sure that the product stands up under critical analysis", he said.

The effort is being met with outright hostility from Republicans and skepticism even within Democratic ranks.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., appeared to gesture at that Thursday, saying an accord could be "a good down payment". "I don't know what those legal means are, I just would expect him to use every legal means", said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's unstructured "executive time", claiming that it helps to foster a "more creative environment" for the president.