Liberal think tank: Congress should request Trump's tax returns

The Center for American Progress (CAP) on Monday argued that Congress should request President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE's tax returns from the Treasury Department — the latest group to press lawmakers on the documents.

"Congress’ request would be well within its legitimate investigative and oversight powers," Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank, wrote in a report. "If Treasury Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin chooses to defy Congress’ request and keep Trump’s tax returns hidden, he will simply be breaking the law."

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A provision in the federal tax code gives House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOvernight Health Care: Social Security won't be able to fund full payouts by 2035 | Drug companies under scrutiny from Congress boost lobbying | US on pace to break record for measles cases On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Social Security won't be able to fund full payouts by 2035 MORE (D-Mass.) the authority to request tax returns from the Treasury Department and review them in a closed session. The Ways and Means Committee could then vote to submit a report to the House, which could make public some or all of the tax returns.

In 2016, Trump became the first major party nominee in decades to refuse to release his tax returns.

Neal has said he will request Trump's tax returns but has been proceeding cautiously, saying that he wants to build a case first because the request could lead to a lengthy court battle if Treasury refuses to comply with the request. A Treasury spokesperson said that Mnuchin would consult with the department's lawyers to determine if a request is legal.

CAP's report seeks to make the case that Congress both has the authority to request Trump's tax returns as well as the "constitutional responsibility to do so given his secrecy and his domestic and foreign business entanglements, as well as the powers of the office."

The report notes that the provision that gives the chairmen of Congress's tax committees the ability to request tax returns was created "to enhance Congress’ investigative powers in the wake of past executive branch corruption: the infamous Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s."

The report argues that Trump's tax returns can provide information about Trump's finances that isn't in his financial disclosure forms, and that presidents should not expect their finances to be private.

CAP lays out six reasons why Congress should obtain Trump's tax returns: To figure out if U.S. national security could be compromised by any financial conflicts of interest Trump may have, to see if Trump has any conflicts of interests concerning his trade policies, to determine if Trump is violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, to determine if Trump is benefiting from his own tax policies, to determine whether the IRS is sufficiently auditing Trump, and to inform Congress's consideration of the legislation the House passed last month to require presidents to disclose 10 years of tax returns.

CAP is one of a host of liberal organizations to argue that Congress should request Trump's tax returns. Some groups, such as Tax March and Stand Up America, have been pressuring Neal to make the request promptly.