Trump's Tax Returns? Congressman You've Never Heard Of Says F*CKIN GIVE IT!
WELL, IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME! House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Who?) finally got around to asking for Donald Trump's tax returns a mere 90 days after being sworn into the majority. And while we might deduct points for punctuality, we're giving extra credit for thoroughness and creativity. Because instead of shouting GIVE IT, FUCKERS!!! the second he pulled his hand off the Bible, he's taken care to craft a rationale that puts the demand squarely within the committee's wheelhouse. Here's part of the letter he hand-delivered yesterday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig:
Consistent with its authority, the Committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President. Under the Internal Revenue Manual, individual income tax returns of a President are subject to mandatory examination, but this practice is IRS policy and not codified in the Federal tax laws. It is necessary for the Committee to determine the scope of any such examination and whether it includes a review of underlying business activities required to be reported on the individual income tax return.
BOOOOORING! But also, important. Neal is saying that IRS regs -- specifically Internal Revenue Manual Section 18.104.22.168.5 on Audit of President and Vice President -- require an automatic audit of the President's return, and it's the committee's job to ensure the IRS does a thorough examination. And by "thorough" he does not mean dispatching some political lackey to write PRESIDENT BIGHANDS PAYS HIS TAXES REAL GOOD. He means they have to look at the business and trust returns that undergird Donald Trump's personal filings, because that's where any real fuckery will be located.
Neal has given the IRS one week to produce six years worth of Trump's personal, business, and trust returns, and those of his largest holding companies. He's also demanding documentation related to any pending or closed audits of those entities, which is kind of genius, actually. Just as House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler was smart to begin his inquiry by asking for documents already handed over to Robert Mueller or the SDNY prosecutors, Neal's demand is akin to saying, "I'm going to dig up this whole backyard, but to speed this process along, how 'bout you tell me whereabouts you buried those corpses?" Because if Trump is actually under audit as he claims -- Michael Cohen seems to think perhaps that hasn't always been the case -- then the IRS has copious documentation of exactly why they originally suspected him of cooking the books.
Republicans on the committee are busy shouting WITCH HUNT. Because that train is never late. And the Shifty Sumbitch in Chief says he's "not inclined" to produce his returns to the committee.
Which is all fascinating, but totally irrelevant. Because §6103 of the Internal Revenue Code unambiguously mandates that Commissioner Rettig hand it over.
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request[.] [Emphasis added.]
And when a statute says "shall," it does not mean "unless the president is disinclined." There's no exception if Commander Tantrum rolls on the floor and shouts, "Don't give those bastards anything, and that's an order!" There's no fine print that says, "except in cases where the minority party thinks the Ways and Means chair is just using his statutory authority to harass the president." It doesn't even provide an out if Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is like so sure that the returns will immediately leak.
Because when a statute says "shall," it means FUCKING GIVE IT. And Republicans can drag this out for a while in the courts, but they know damn well they're going to lose. Yes, even though Mitch McConnell jammed Justice Bloodlust and Justice Kegstand onto SCOTUS and is frantically packing the federal judiciary with hacks. It's not even a close call. And whatever nonsense the White House and Treasury barf out to justify withholding the returns will only make this problem worse -- bad faith mischaracterizations of the plain meaning of the statute may be good politics, but they tend to piss off judges. So watch for Trump to start losing his mind -- even more than usual -- particularly over the trust and business returns, which is where the real bodies are probably buried.
Even by the debased standards of 2019, THIS IS GONNA BE UGLY.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.