When Democrats officially take control of the House of Representatives in January, they will start by seeking President Trump’s tax returns.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that the House Ways and Means Committee will “Take the first steps” to acquire the tax returns. Pelosi has the backing of her members to become the next speaker of the House.
Pelosi added, “There is popular demand for the Congress to request the president’s tax returns.” She went on to say that she expects the White House to “resist.”
The move by Democrats has been expected since they won the majority of the House in November’s election. The House Ways and Means Committee is allowed to request tax returns or related information on any tax filer from the Treasury Department.
Trump’s tax returns are important. The current president’s finances could prove one way or another if he has problematic financial relations with Russia or another conflict of interest. The documents could also show if Trump violated the law before he was elected by avoiding paying taxes.
The New York Times reports that the Teapot Dome law, added to the tax code in the 1920s, allows the House Ways and Means Committee to request the records.
Democrats likely expect Trump’s appointees in the Treasury Department to refuse the request. This could lead to a lawsuit by the House and begin a long court battle over the right of Congress to oversee the chief executive.
Trump’s lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani told the Times that he would tell the president to fight any request for his tax returns. At the time, Rep. Pelosi told reporters that the public is “owed” transparency when it comes to Trump’s tax returns.
She added, “That is one of the first things we’d do — that’s the easiest thing in the world.”
Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is a breach of modern presidential norms. Former presidents like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush all released their tax returns.