Freedom Caucus formally opposes Trump's budget deal
Key Democrat cites new urgency to get Trump's tax returns
A key Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee said Monday that the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's 2016 election meddling lends a new significance to the congressional effort to secure President Trump's tax returns.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) has vowed for months to seek Trump's financial documents by tapping an obscure, century-old law empowering the Ways and Means panel to access them. Pascrell said the uncertainty surrounding whether Mueller looked at Trump's tax returns in the course of his 22-month investigation has made it more important for Congress to do so.
"I've always felt that the main question was his tax returns. ... And not just a cursory look but the personal as well as the business," Pascrell told reporters in the Capitol.
"If Mueller did not examine - even though he had a very narrow scope of interest here, as we've seen, even though it's narrow - there is not one question that I think he looked into that would not pertain to the president's returns. If he didn't do it, that means the report is only half done," Pascrell continued.
"That makes it even more significant," he added.
The comments arrive as Democrats are scrambling to respond to Sunday's news, delivered in a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr, that Mueller's investigation turned up no evidence that Trump or any member of his campaign conspired with Moscow to influence the 2016 election.
Trump and his GOP allies have welcomed the report as the end of the partisan "witch hunt" they always claimed Mueller's investigation was. But Democrats are unconvinced, pressing for Barr to release the entire report, along with the underlying documentation, so the public can reach its own verdict about the appropriateness of Trump's dealings with Russia.
Separately, the Democrats overseeing key committees say they're undeterred by Barr's summary of Mueller's findings. They're vowing to press on with a long list of investigations into allegations dogging the president, including those connected to his relations with Russia.
Pascrell says securing Trump's tax returns is the surest route to learning what Trump has been pursuing, both on the campaign trail and since taking office. He said he's just waiting for Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) to give the word.
"I think we're about to engage, whenever the chairman gives the word, into getting those returns. Whether Mueller even looked into them is another question. I have to read the report to find that out," Pascrell said.
Asked if the issue has been made more urgent, Pascrell didn't hesitate.
"Yeah. Because the closer we get to January, we know what's going to happen next year," he said, referring to the looming presidential race.
"We've got to do it this year," he added.