The Slatest

House Committee Uses Century-Old Provision in the Tax Code to Demand Trump’s Taxes From IRS

The Internal Revenue Service building on March 27, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Congress volleys the Trump taxes ball into the IRS’ court.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

One feature of Democrats winning the House back in 2018 is the subpoena power that came with a whiff of congressional leadership. Now in charge of House committees, Democrats have been aggressive in their pursuit of Trump administration malfeasance wherever it may occur. That’s all fine and good, but Trump’s taxes remain the real investigative prize not named Mueller and, on Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee officially upped the ante in its pursuit of the president’s conspicuously buried taxes by formally asking the IRS to turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

Rep. Richard Neal is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and instead of threatening Trump with legal action, the Massachusetts Democrat is “invoking an authority enshrined in the tax code granted only to the tax-writing committees in Congress that gives the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee the power to request tax information on any filer,” the New York Times reports. “The provision, which dates in some form to the Teapot Dome scandal of Warren G. Harding’s administration, at least on its face gives the Trump administration little room to decline a request like Mr. Neal’s. It only says that the Treasury secretary ‘shall’ furnish the information.”

Republicans have, predictably, pushed back against the request, arguing that Democrats are “weaponizing our nation’s tax code.” The obvious counterargument is: it’s near impossible to weaponize something that is already in the public domain, as the taxes of every other president since Nixon have been. Trump addressed the move Wednesday afternoon with more of the same, claiming that he’d love to help, really, but he’s terribly busy being audited or something.

“We are under audit, despite what people said, and working that out—I’m always under audit, it seems, but I’ve been under audit for many years because the numbers are big, and I guess when you have a name, you’re audited,” Trump said. “But until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do it.”

The request to the IRS also demanded returns from Trump’s business and charitable entities, including “the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, [-] an umbrella entity that controls more than 100 other businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. Some of those businesses also own a variety of Trump’s homes, hotels, golf clubs, his properties in Scotland and his namesake hotel in downtown Washington,” the Washington Post reports. “Neal also made requests of DTTM Operations LLC and DTTM Operations Managing Member Corp, which own a number of other Trump LLCs. These businesses collect licensing fees from various Trump-branded products. On his personal financial disclosures, Trump has never reported any income from these entities.”