The Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday for six years of President Donald Trump's personal tax returns and those of his businesses.
Neal's action followed two years of effort by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist., to get Trump to give up his returns and let Congress exercise its oversight powers. The IRS is to hand over Mr Trump's personal tax records dating from 2013 to 2018, as well as those for eight of his Trump brand companies.
In his latest warning to Mexico to tighten border security, Trump threatened earlier on Thursday to eventually slap tariffs on auto imports from Mexico unless it did more to stop drug trafficking.
The statute Democrats are relying on, however, specifies that "the Secretary...shall furnish" returns to the relevant congressional committees. He went on to say the committee will have no issue fulfilling the House's request for information. He added later: "I don't think we'll ever have to close the border because the penalty of tariffs on cars coming into the United States from Mexico, at 25 per cent, will be massive".
House Democrats haven't stopped at Trump's business filings.
It is significant therefore that Neal's request was made to the IRS and not the Treasury.
"The IRS absolutely has access to these returns", Kildee said.
They also complained that they weren't consulted before the Democrats sent Fairbank a request on March 11 requesting a wide range of materials related to Trump's finances and business holdings.
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"We are under audit, despite what people said, and working that out", Trump said.
Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner said he would be willing to join legal action to obtain the grand jury material and predicted other Republicans would as well, noting that the House voted overwhelmingly last month for the full report's release to Congress.
They are among 81 people, agencies and entities the panel has sought documents from as part of its obstruction and corruption investigation into Trump and his associates.
In the letter Neal said he's looking to determine if the IRS's audits of the president have been conducted "fully and appropriately".
The House recently passed a law that included a provision requiring presidents to disclose their returns, though it's unlikely the Senate would take it up, and Trump would likely veto it regardless.
"He says he's in the middle of an audit, and his CPAs say, 'Don't turn it over.' And I take him at his word, and I respect that".
Neal said the legal strategy was devised by House counsel and the Ways and Means Committee's tax staff. Section 6103 of the code is very clear: the chairman of the Ways and Means committee can request a copy of these returns and the IRS commissioner is legally bound to provide them.
After that move from Nixon, though not legally required to do so, it became commonplace for subsequent presidential candidates and commanders-in-chief to release their tax returns to the public.