House Democrats divided on strategy to force release of Trump's tax returns

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Newly empowered House Democrats kicked off a barrage of investigations into President Donald Trump's taxes, real estate business and Russian Federation ties Thursday, raising the pressure on the White House after two years of insulation by a Republican majority.

A coalition of three liberal groups - Tax March, Indivisible, and Stand Up America - wrote to Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal, Democrat of MA, last month, publicly pushing him to "immediately" obtain Trump's tax returns, according to Roll Call.

Republicans accused the Democrats of using powers in the tax law to mount a political witch hunt for Trump's tax returns.

New Jersey lawmakers have revived a bill that would remove President Trump's name from the 2020 ballot unless he discloses his federal tax returns.

The congressmen said if Democrats weren't satisfied with the annual audits, Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks and existing financial disclosures the president is subject to, they should "legislate a thoughtful solution to require additional disclosures" rather than "weaponizing our nation's tax code" by targeting political adversaries. Their newly energized leftward wing is pushing Neal to set the quest in motion, and fast.

Pelosi of California told reporters Thursday, "I'm just leaving the negotiating up to the negotiators". But Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on House Appropriations, said negotiations may go past Friday but be completed in time to avert a shutdown. Ways and Means member Ron Kind of Wisconsin, considered one of the most centrist House Democrats, said he thinks the idea could be a waste of time.

"They want to know the truth, they want to know the facts".

Several tax experts were also called upon to testify.

"I always think that whatever the president says about us, he's projecting his own unruliness", Pelosi said.

Coupled with a widespread expectation that the accord would not use the term "wall", the pact would represent a significant retreat for Trump, for whom "Build the wall!" has been a battle cry since his presidential campaign. It could take years to resolve, possibly stretching beyond the 2020 presidential election.

"I've seen the Democratic and the latest Republican offer. There is no end in sight for those whose tax information may be in jeopardy". "Such an abuse of power would open a Pandora's box". Kelly asked. "What about the tax returns of the speaker?"

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But Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., insisted that no one, including the president, is above the law.

"I don't see any wiggle room in the statute to refuse the request", said UVA law professor and former Democratic joint committee on taxation staffer George Yin, a committee witness.

Representatives Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Kevin Brady of Texas said that attempts to make Trump's tax returns public threatened the privacy of all USA taxpayers.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a hearing on the deaths of two migrant children in US custody at the southern border would be scheduled for March 5.

The subcommittee also examined a proposal that would require all presidents, vice presidents and candidates for those offices to make public 10 years of tax returns.

If the committee gets the returns, it can vote to make them available to all House members, effectively making them public.

It's unclear exactly what types of barriers or fencing would be funded, and whether Trump will conclude they meet his definition of a wall.

Any move by Trump to fund a border barrier by executive fiat, however, would roil many Republicans on Capitol Hill, raising the likelihood that both House and Senate could pass legislation to reverse him.

"There's nothing to learn from them", Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press in May 2016.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The New York Times that if any requests are made, he would work with the department's general counsel and the general counsel for the IRS. Lawmakers face a February 15 deadline when large portions of the government will shutdown unless Congress and Trump act first.

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