Democrats Just Ramped Up Their Fight for Trump’s Taxes

Congress gives the administration one week to comply.

Cheriss May/Zumapress

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Democratic chair of the House Ways and Means Committee issued a subpoena on Friday for President Donald Trump’s tax returns—escalating the democrats’ years-long effort to unveil Trump’s taxes.

Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who has unilateral subpoena power as the committee’s leader, took the step after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused earlier this week to release six years of Trump’s tax returns in response to a request by Democrats. In their ask, Democrats had cited a nearly century-old and rarely-used law stipulating that the House Ways and Means chairman can request any person’s tax information, and that the Treasury department “shall furnish” them to Congress. Some interpretations of the law add that the committee should have a legitimate legislative purpose for requesting this information. Mnuchin rejected Democrats’ request after weeks of delay and deliberation, sharing his determination that the committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

In response, Neal turned to the committee’s lawyers to recommend a response. “Upon the advice of counsel, I issued subpoenas today to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of the IRS for six years of personal and business returns,” Neal wrote in a Friday statement.

“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material. I sincerely hope that the Treasury Department will furnish the requested material in the next week so the committee can quickly begin its work.”

The top Republican on the House Ways and Means committee, Rep. Kevin Brady, on Friday called Democrat’s efforts to obtain Trump’s taxes “illegitimate” and politically-motivated in a letter to Neal. He called the subpoena an example of Democrats’ “coordinated attempt to weaponize the tax code and use Congress’s legitimate oversight authority for political gain.”

Neal’s subpoena request gives the Treasury department until 5 PM on Friday to send Trump’s taxes to Congress. Even if the agency complies, there’s no guarantee that the documents would be made available to the public. The request asks for Trump’s personal taxes and some of his business returns from 2013 through 2018.

This subpoena sets up what could become a protracted legal fight: If the administration reject’s Neal’s subpoena, as is widely expected, Democrats will be forced to wage a court battle seeking Trump’s taxes—one that could end up before the Supreme Court. 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate