Congress Really Can Demand, And Get, Trump's Tax Returns. Here's How
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi vowed this week to demand President Trump's tax returns if Democrats win control of the House of Representatives next month.
Pelosi, seeking to regain her gavel as House speaker after elections in November, told The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board that the move "is one of the first things we'd do — that's the easiest thing in the world. That's nothing."
Trump, unlike other presidents in recent decades, has refused to make his returns public. He also has refused to divest himself of businesses and investments that could pose domestic or international conflicts of interest. For example, the Trump International Hotel, located just blocks from the White House, regularly hosts events with foreign diplomats, interest groups and industry associations.
By law, taxpayer information is supposed to remain confidential. But as University of Virginia law professor George Yin, author of a 2017 article on the law, told NPR, Congress didn't like being dependent on the executive branch to provide tax records.
When the "committee access" provision, as it's known, became law in 1924, Congress had been dealing with taxpayers' information in the Teapot Dome scandal afflicting the Harding administration and in a controversy involving former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. Like Trump, he had served in government while refusing to avoid conflicts of interest by letting go of his holdings.
The committee access provision has rarely been invoked, but here's how it would work:
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