Ever since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, his political opponents have urged him to release his tax returns, and he has consistently refused. Now, some lawmakers are escalating this fight by taking it to federal court. That's right — House Democrats filed a lawsuit over Trump's tax returns on Tuesday, July 2, and the stakes are pretty high.
According to The New York Times, the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against the IRS and the Treasury Department on July 2 in order to get ahold of Trump's tax returns and financial records. In the lawsuit, House Democrats argued that the Trump administration's ongoing refusal to release the president's tax returns is “an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people.” Elite Daily has reached out to the IRS and the Treasury Department for comment. In a statement emailed to Elite Daily, White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves called the lawsuit "a sham lawsuit" and "presidential harassment." The statement said in part, "The Committee has no legitimate legislative purpose for which it can demand the President’s tax returns, and it is evident that they are only interested in partisan games."
The lawsuit, which was filed in D.C. District Court, targets both the Treasury and the IRS, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. According to CNN, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal has been trying to use IRS provision 6103 to demand Trump's tax returns up until now. Provision 6103 allows the chairpeople of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request individuals' tax information on the grounds that they serve a legitimate legislative purpose. Mnuchin and the Trump administration have argued that the president's tax returns would not, in fact, serve this purpose, per NPR.
Democrats believe that this provision alone should have granted Neal access to the president's tax returns, but the House Ways and Means chairman has been attempting to do so for months with no luck. On May 6, Mnuchin rejected Neal's initial request for six years of tax returns under provision 6103, and he also refused to comply with a congressional subpoena issued by Neal in May. That's why House Democrats are escalating this fight and taking the Treasury and the IRS to court.
For years, Democrats have been trying to get the president to disclose his financial records — and Tuesday's lawsuit might actually help them do that. Last month, the House passed a resolution authorizing committee leaders to file civil contempt cases in order to obtain information relating to investigations of the president, NPR reported. Tuesday's Ways and Means lawsuit is the first time House Democrats have acted on that resolution, per The New York Times.
This lawsuit doesn't just signify the escalation of a years-long battle between Democrats and the Trump administration. If this lawsuit is successful, House Democrats could finally compel Trump to release his tax returns to Congress and perhaps even the public. Having access to the president's financial records will also give Democrats the chance they have been waiting for — to determine, once and for all, whether or not the president has been honest about his finances in any way. In recent months, Trump has claimed he is being audited and therefore can't release his taxes, CNN reported. However, an audit would not prevent him from releasing his tax returns — just like it didn't prevent past presidents from doing so.
According to HuffPost, Trump is the first president in approximately four decades who has declined to release his tax returns, and as recently as Monday, Democrats faced widespread criticism for not taking more action on the issue.
Although Tuesday's lawsuit came later than many liberals and progressives were hoping, it may just let Democrats access information that Trump has closely guarded for years.