GOP chairman won't request Trump's tax returns from Treasury

GOP chairman won't request Trump's tax returns from Treasury
© Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRyan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference Overnight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records MORE (R-Texas) on Monday said he would not request President Trump's tax returns from the Treasury secretary, as a Democratic committee member had urged.

"My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of a president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans," Brady said. "Privacy and civil liberties are still important rights in this country, and [the] Ways and Means Committee is not going to start to weaken that."

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) sent Brady a letter earlier this month asking him to take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code and request Trump's tax returns from Treasury so that the Ways and Means Committee could review them in a closed session and consider whether they should be made public. Under federal tax law, the chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation can make such a request.

ADVERTISEMENT
Pascrell said he hoped his request would allow the public to judge Trump's conflicts of interest.

"President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments," he wrote in his letter. "The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement."

But Brady told reporters that he rejects Pascrell's argument.

"I've read his letter, and I disagree with all of it," he said. "And, in fact, that letter misrepresents the legislative intent of that provision, which in fact creates confidentiality and privacy for Americans in their tax returns."

Pascrell's letter noted that the Ways and Means Committee previously requested and released some taxpayer information when it was investigating the IRS's treatment of conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status.

Brady said that in that case, taxpayer information was requested "to investigate what was clearly misleading information from the Internal Revenue Service as they tried to mislead the American public and mislead Congress about their targeting of average Americans based on their political beliefs."

After Brady's comments, Pascrell said in a statement Monday that using the committee's power to share Trump's business interests with the public is "Checks and Balances 101."

"I hoped and still hope that my friend Kevin Brady will put country over party. This isn’t a partisan issue," he said, promising to keep pressing the issue.

Trump is the first president in decades not to release his tax returns. He said during the campaign that he would not release his returns while under audit by the IRS. However, the IRS has said that nothing prevents someone from making public their own tax information.