Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and he wants to use a 1924 tax law that allows Congress to examine tax returns for the purpose of determining whether conflicts of interest exist, even if those tax returns belong to the president. From NorthJersey.com:
After privately examining returns -- Pascrell is seeking 10 years' worth -- the committee could decide to share them with the full House, which would in effect make them public. The 1924 law gives congressional committees that set tax policy the power to examine tax returns. It was used in 1974 when Congress looked at President Richard Nixon's returns, and in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's handling of applications for nonprofit status
If Sen. Mitch McConnell can invoke the rarely used “Rule 19”, Rep. Pascrell and Congress are well within their rights to evoke this 1924 tax code and do what the law requires to ensure there are no conflicts of interest. Pascrell said he’s not going to take “no” for answer:
Pascrell said foreign governments are paying rents, licensing fees, and issuing permits for Trump Organization projects, all of which could be used to influence the president.The letter asked Brady to reply by Wednesday.
“If I get a ‘no’ answer on this, I’ll be very honest with you: If these guys think I’m walking away from this, they’re absolutely nuts," Pascrell said. "The calls we’re getting, the calls other congressmen are getting, it’s unbelievable, we never expected this.”
Below is the full letter from Rep. Pacrell to Rep. Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
February 1, 2017
The Honorable Kevin Brady Chairman
House Committee on Ways and Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Brady:
The Founding Fathers were determined to prevent corruption among public officeholders under our Constitution. The emoluments clause prohibits federal officeholders from accepting foreign gifts or emoluments without congressional consent. Their intention was to forbid relationships that might lead to corruption. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe and lawyer Joshua Matz have written that the meaning of “emoluments” as the framers intended included profits received in a business relationship.
President Trump has chosen to keep an ownership stake in his businesses, the scope of which we have no knowledge of as he has refused to disclose his tax returns. We believe that it is imperative for the public to know and understand his 564 financial positions in domestic and foreign companies, and his self-reported net worth of more than $10 billion. We know that state-owned enterprises in China and the United Arab Emirates are involved in his businesses, and that his business ties stretch to India, Turkey, the Philippines, and beyond. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan may also have ties to his businesses. These foreign entities are paying rents, licensing agreement payments, and issuing permits for developments -- effectively giving them a tool to influence our new President.
None of these potential conflicts can be verified until and unless we have disclosure from President Trump. Every major Presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, with the exception of President Gerald Ford who released a summary of tax data, has released his or her tax returns for public review – until now.
If the President does not either release his returns or consent to examination of such returns by this Committee, I urge you, as Chairman of the Committee and pursuant to Section 6103(f)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, to submit a written request to the Secretary of the Treasury for copies of the President’s federal tax returns by February 15, 2017. These returns and all accompanying return information should then be made available for examination by all Committee Members in a closed executive session. I further request that the Committee then vote in this closed session to submit the President’s federal tax returns to the House of Representatives—thereby, if successful, making them available to the public. This Committee followed a similar procedure to release confidential taxpayer information in the past during its exhaustive investigation of the treatment of certain tax-exempt organizations.
The Presidential campaign is over and the fear that a political opponent will try to use tax returns for electoral benefit is passed. President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments. The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement. I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to use that power to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump’s tax returns and moving towards a formal release of these documents to the public.
I look forward to your reply.
Bill Pascrell, Jr. Member of Congress