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Democrats: Stop Being Babies and Get Trump's Tax Returns

Sixty percent of Americans say Democrats should force Trump to release his returns—and railing against a billionaire oligarch president for not coming clean with the public about his money cuts into his populist persona

No president has ever continued to operate a vast business empire while in office. (Photo: Illustrated | Gearstd/iStock, Ljupco/iStock, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Ridofranz/iStock, IRS.gov)

No president has ever continued to operate a vast business empire while in office. (Photo: Illustrated | Gearstd/iStock, Ljupco/iStock, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Ridofranz/iStock, IRS.gov) 

Donald Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to release his tax returns to the public. He and his surrogates have deployed a battery of ever-shifting excuses for this, most commonly that he is under some audit. An audit, of course, doesn't prevent anyone from releasing their return, and audits hardly ever take three years. There may never have been an audit in the first place.

It's obvious Trump will not release his tax returns, ever. The only way the American public will get them is if someone forces them out. House Democrats have the clear legal authority to get those returns. So far they have inexplicably failed to even try. They—in particular House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.)—need to stop being such babies and get it done.

Here's the legal background. As Steven Rosenthal of the Tax Policy Center writes, a section of 26 U.S. Code § 6103 states that if the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee submits a written request for any tax return, the treasury secretary "shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request." Documents that identify an individual taxpayer just have to be seen in closed executive session. From there, the committee can decide to send them on to the full House: "Any return or return information obtained by or on behalf of such committee pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be submitted by the committee to the Senate or the House of Representatives, or to both." The House can then vote to release them publicly, if they wish.

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Moreover, oversight of conflicts of interest is literally the entire reason this law came about in the first place. It was passed in 1924, in response to the Teapot Dome scandal and then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's refusal to reveal his possible conflicts of interest.

That sort of thing is exactly why the American people deserve to see Trump's tax returns. No president has ever continued to operate a vast business empire while in office. The conflicts of interests — plus instances of blatantly abusing his power to enrich himself—probably number in the hundreds. The man is plainly a crook.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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