(CNSNews.com) – “This was never about being punitive. It was never about being malicious,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told a news conference on Tuesday, after his committee voted to release the tax returns of a U.S. citizen who wanted them to remain private — Donald J. Trump.
But notably, Neal began his remarks by discussing “what this room was like on January 6th.”
“This table,” Neal said, “was against those doors, the doors were bowing, the room was under assault, and the Capitol Police were in this office with me, with guns drawn on the door…the windows through here were all broken, the sink was ripped out, and the demonstrators were pushing right through these windows as well.
“And I think that that’s important, because as we’ve attempted to restore the regular order here, we’ve had a chance to see the role that government is supposed to play.”
Neal then explained that the committee’s purpose in releasing Trump’s tax returns in coming days is to show that the IRS failed in its duty to conduct mandatory audits for presidents and vice presidents. Neal said the committee learned that the first mandatory IRS audit into Trump’s tax returns was opened two years into his presidency — on the same day the committee requested his tax returns.
The committee waged a court battle to get Trump’s private tax returns. And the Democrats’ vote to release them is drawing condemnation from Republicans, including the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who warned that Supreme Court justices may be next:
“Ways and Means Democrats are unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond President Trump, and jeopardizes the privacy of every American,” Brady said in a statement.
Brady elaborated at a press conference on Tuesday:
“Going forward, the majority chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have nearly unlimited power to target and make public the tax returns of private citizens And not just private citizens, political enemies, business and labor leaders, or even the returns of Supreme Court justices themselves.
“No party in Congress should have that power. No individuals in Congress should have that power. It’s the power to embarrass, to harass or destroy Americans through disclosure of their tax returns.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an avowed enemy of Trump, tweeted: “The @WaysMeansCmte’s solemn oversight work has revealed the urgent need for legislation to ensure the public can trust in real accountability and transparency during the audit of a sitting president’s tax returns – not only in the case of President Trump, but for any president.”
Every modern president except for Trump has voluntarily release his tax returns, so for some people, it strains belief to think that Trump wasn’t targeted by Democrats.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted: “Democrats obsess over President Trump’s tax returns, but have no problem with the Pelosi family’s stock trades.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted: “Every President has released their tax returns, except for one: Donald Trump. We will soon find out what he is hiding and why he won’t share them with the American people.”
But remember — as noted above, Neal said the purpose in releasing Trump’s returns was “legislative,” not “punitive” — to show that the IRS “failed in its duty.”
According to the preface of the report released by Ways and Means on Tuesday:
“Auditing the income taxes of the President of the United States is unlike auditing the income taxes of any other American. No one else has the power to sign bills into law—bills which could affect the President’s personal financial situation. Nor do they have the power to personally direct every department, agency, bureau, and office of the vast executive branch of government— opening limitless opportunities to affect the President’s personal finances. And no other American has the comparable power to appoint or terminate officials responsible for decisions that could affect the President’s personal financial prospects.
“We maintain that how Presidents exercise these powers and the extent to which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits and enforces our federal tax laws to ensure compliance by Presidents, are a valid and crucial subject of legislative scrutiny. The public must have confidence that our tax laws apply evenly and justly to all, regardless of power or position. The effort to provide oversight of the mandatory audit program is and always has been about ensuring that our tax laws are administered fairly and without preference.
“The Committee’s investigation revealed only one mandatory audit was started under the prior Administration and the program was otherwise dormant, at best. For this reason, it is recommended that there should be a statutory requirement for the mandatory examination of the President with disclosure of certain audit information and related returns in a timely manner. Such statutory requirement would ensure the integrity of the IRS, enable IRS employees to fully audit all issues, and restore confidence in the Federal tax system. To this end, this report includes a discussion draft of legislation to codify the mandatory audit program and require certain disclosures.”
The report also lays out the “issues” that “warranted examination by the IRS,” including Trump’s large charitable donations; net operating loss carryovers; whether loans made to the former president’s children are loans or disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax; and various other provisions that the committee believes may have been abused.
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