Top Republican urges Dem chairman to drop Trump tax returns effort

The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee is urging committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealLobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections Trump urges judge to deny New York's motion to dismiss state tax return lawsuit MORE (D-Mass.) to drop his effort to obtain President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE's tax returns as Neal prepares to announce the next steps in his effort.

In a letter to Neal on Friday, Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Republicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security MORE (R-Texas) said that subpoenaing Trump's tax returns or filing a lawsuit to obtain them would "be an abuse of the Committee’s oversight powers and further examples of the Democrat majority’s coordinated attempt to weaponize the tax code and use Congress’s legitimate oversight authority for political gain.” 

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Neal sent a letter to the IRS last month requesting Trump's personal and business tax returns from 2013 to 2018. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWhite House officials, Giuliani come to Trump's defense on Ukraine allegations Mnuchin on Trump's call with Ukraine president: 'Things are being implied that just don't exist' Overnight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US MORE on Monday rejected Neal's request.

Brady's letter is not likely to prompt Neal to end his efforts to obtain Trump's tax returns. Neal has said he will announce his next steps by the end of the week and has said that he thinks the matter is headed for a legal battle.

Brady cited a recent New York Times article that described Trump's tax information from 1985 to 1994 to question Neal's motives for seeing Trump's more recent tax documents. The Times reported that Trump reported more than $1 billion in business losses in that 10-year period.

"It has been made clear that this information is not being sought to further a valid legislative purpose, but instead to try to embarrass a political enemy," Brady said.

Neal said in his initial request for Trump's tax returns that the committee wants the documents because it is interested in legislative proposals and oversight related to tax laws.

But Brady said that based on press statements made by some senior Ways and Means Committee Democrats, "it has become obvious that your supposed legislative purpose is just a pretext, and your request is merely a means to access and make public the tax returns of a single individual for purely political purposes."

When Brady was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the last Congress, Democrats on the panel urged Brady to request Trump's tax returns from Treasury and make the effort to obtain the documents bipartisan. Brady repeatedly refused to do so, arguing that doing so would be an abuse of power that threatens taxpayers' privacy rights. 

Brady reiterated his concerns about taxpayer privacy in his new letter to Neal.

"I continue to believe that all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of the personal information found in their tax returns," he said. “When Congress violates the rights of one taxpayer for political purposes, it begins the process of eroding the privacy rights of all taxpayers."