It's Been 160 Days Of Democratic Majority in Congress. Where Are Trump's Tax Returns? | Opinion
Donald Trump has something to hide in his tax returns—and since the first day of his presidency, it's been clear that his administration will stop at nothing to prevent the American people from ever seeing them.
Knowing that, Democrats had over two years to prepare to use the oversight authority that came with flipping Congress to obtain and release Trump's returns. As progressives fought for the majority, it seemed it would be a top priority for a new Democratic majority. In fact, before the 2018 midterms, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that getting Trump's tax returns would be one of the first things House Democrats would do.
Yet, after successfully flipping the House, Democrats opted to slow-walk the process and wait until three months after taking the majority to formally request Trump's taxes. It's now been 160 days since the new Congress was seated and 70 days since the request was made—and we have little to show for Democrats' go-slow strategy.
From the outset, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal made every effort to ensure the scope of his request for Trump's personal and business tax returns complied with federal law and that the process was transparent. He gave the Treasury Department more than enough time to hand over the returns—in fact, he was probably too patient.
Unfortunately for Chairman Neal—and the American people—it's not clear if the person on the receiving end of that request had any intention of complying with the law.
Despite the narrow scope and legitimate legislative purpose, Mnuchin failed to meet multiple deadlines set by Chairman Neal and ignored subsequent subpoenas requiring the disclosure of Trump's tax returns.
But his compliance with these lawful requests was not optional. By willfully ignoring these legitimate efforts to restore norms of transparency, Mnuchin has made a mockery of Congress and the Constitution that empowers it to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
It could not be clearer that what Mnuchin is engaged in amounts to little more, in the words of Rep. Don Beyer (D., Va.) than "an illegal stonewalling of Congress."
And after months of allowing the Trump administration to stonewall Congress, House Democrats now have no choice but to take Mnuchin to court, as Chairman Neal has said for weeks that he would do.
But this shouldn't be the only course of action—and Neal shouldn't be moving this slowly.
We now need Chairman Neal to not only pledge that he would immediately take Mnuchin to court if authorized by Congress, but that he would also swiftly begin proceedings to hold Mnuchin in contempt of Congress. Doing so will ensure that Donald Trump's officials see personal consequences of breaking the law on his behalf, while also showing the American people that House Democrats will not stop fighting for transparency within the highest levels of our government.
This is especially critical as more information comes to light about Trump's financial entanglements. We know, in the abstract, that Donald Trump is profiting off his presidency. We know that he is still attempting to hide financial documents from Congress. But without Trump's tax personal and business tax returns, we will not know who he is beholden to—and Mnuchin must be held accountable for preventing us from getting those answers.
House Democrats have to stop slow-walking the process for obtaining Trump's tax returns and forcefully hold the Trump administration accountable for these blatant attempts to prevent congressional oversight. Like Congress did when Attorney General William Barr refused to hand over the un-redacted Mueller report, it is time to begin proceedings to hold Mnuchin in contempt.
No one is above the law. And Congress must not allow administration officials—and certainly not Trump himself—to think they are.
Ryan Thomas (@stateoftheryan) is the press secretary for Stand Up America, one of the many progressive organizations fighting for the public release of Trump's tax returns. He was previously a spokesperson for Tax March.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.