While contending the report didn’t reveal anything new about the president, Pelosi quoted the 1924 law that is the basis of repeated requests from the House Ways and Means Committee chairman to view Trump’s returns. The law says the treasury secretary “shall furnish” tax returns of any individual to the chairmen of Congress’s tax-writing committees if asked.
“He’s the president of the United States, we’re going to try to get some work done with him, but we do have a responsibility to our own oath of office: To protect and defend the Constitution, to do just that. He takes the same oath. I don’t think he takes it seriously, so it tells me nothing,” Pelosi said of the New York Times report.
“It does tell us, though, that it would be useful to see his tax returns, as the law says, the administration ‘shall’ give the — ‘shall.’ It doesn’t say ‘may, should, could, under certain circumstances.’ It says ‘shall’ give those tax returns to the Ways and Means chairman.”
Pelosi’s comments at a Washington Post Live event come two days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) that he would not be turning over the past six years’ worth of Trump’s personal and business tax returns as requested.
Mnuchin said that after consulting with the Department of Justice, a determination had been made that releasing the returns would be unlawful because of potential privacy violations. Mnuchin also questioned Neal’s basis for seeking the returns, disputing Neal’s argument that his request has a legitimate legislative basis to assist with the committee’s oversight responsibilities.
Neal suggested Tuesday that his next step could be to take the issue straight to court, where he has long predicted it would end up. Neal said he would be consulting with House lawyers on Thursday before making a decision but noted that the administration has been ignoring subpoenas, suggesting there was no point in taking intervening steps before filing suit.
Pelosi said she would defer to Neal but added: “There are several options. One of them is to go directly to court.”
Post reporter Robert Costa, who was interviewing Pelosi, raised the prospect of holding Mnuchin in contempt or even arresting him, but Pelosi laughed that off.
“Well let me just say, we do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol,” Pelosi said. “But if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation, and I’m not for that.”
Trump has long resisted releasing his tax returns, something every president since Richard M. Nixon has done voluntarily. He’s offered varying rationales, including claiming he could not release his returns under audit, even though numerous experts have said that would be no impediment to releasing them if he chose. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen told Congress earlier this year that Trump’s returns were never under audit and that Trump did not want scrutiny of his financial affairs.
The Times report sheds light on why that might be the case. The report finds that during the same period Trump was promoting himself as a business prodigy, he was racking up massive debts from many losing enterprises.
The magnitude of Trump’s losses allowed him to avoid paying taxes in eight of the 10 years the Times examined — and he lost more money than almost any other taxpayer over that time, the Times reported.
The decade examined by the Times, from 1985 to 1994, is a different period from the years of returns sought by Neal, from 2013 to 2018. But the findings by the Times puncture elements of the persona Trump built over the years — as a successful businessman — which was a central selling point in his campaign for president.