Any remaining doubt as to whether or not House Democrats will use their new subpoena powers to obtain President Trump’s tax returns has officially been put to rest.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who is the presumptive next Speaker of the House, told reporters Thursday that the House Ways and Means Committee — which oversees the IRS — will begin the process of acquiring Trump’s tax returns after the 116th Congress is sworn in this coming January.
“There is popular demand for the Congress to request the president’s tax returns,” Pelosi said. “I’m sure the White House will resist, so the question is where do we go from there.”
While Pelosi said the process would begin in the House Ways and Means Committee, the process could also feasibly take place in the House Financial Services Committee, which Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) — an outspoken critic of President Trump — is expected to chair. While that committee doesn’t have jurisdiction over the IRS as the Ways and Means Committee does, Waters, should she become chairwoman of the committee, could feasibly use her power as chair to subpoena bank records relating to Trump and his finances.
President Trump has gone out of his way to shield his tax returns from the public. During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump promised to release his tax returns after an audit, though the IRS said nothing would prevent him from releasing his tax returns even as the audit was ongoing. The one page of tax returns that has been made public was from 2005 — the same year Trump married his current wife, Melania. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow speculated that the 2005 tax return, which showed that Trump paid an effective tax rate of 23 percent, had to be “sterling” so Melania (a green card holder at the time) would be granted citizenship.
A lengthy investigation the New York Times published in October showed a pattern of Trump and his family engaging in various dubious schemes to get out of paying taxes — particularly estate taxes, which are paid after someone inherits a large amount of wealth. And as Vox pointed out, Trump has demonstrated a pattern of engaging in legally questionable behavior as a businessman.
From his empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos to racial discrimination in his apartments to Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases to Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed.
As many pundits and observers have noted, the only way to confirm whether or not Trump is currently engaging in financial crimes would be to see his full tax returns. And going by what Nancy Pelosi told reporters, that may happen relatively soon.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.