In the midst of a series of unrelated missives about climate change, The Washington Post, TikTok, and immigration, Donald Trump mentioned his hidden tax records by way of his social media platform last night. “You can’t learn much from tax returns,” the former president wrote, “but it is illegal to release them if they are not yours!”
There’s no great mystery as to what prompted the Republican’s comment. NBC News reported late last week:
The House Ways and Means Committee will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss former President Donald Trump’s tax returns — possibly answering questions about whether the committee could make public the documents that have been shrouded in secrecy.
To be sure, much of the focus on Capitol Hill right now is on the Jan. 6 committee, which will meet this afternoon, and which will likely make some news about possible criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
But for the former president, this isn’t the only area of concern related to the outgoing Democratic majority in the House. On the contrary, Trump has spent the better part of seven years trying to hide his tax materials, and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee may soon undermine his attempts at secrecy.
For those who may benefit from a refresher, let’s quickly review some of the more recent developments.
Under existing law, a limited number of congressional leaders have the authority to access individual tax returns from the Treasury Department. In April 2019, Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, decided to exercise that power, directing officials from the Treasury Department to turn over Trump’s tax records.
As longtime readers may recall, since the law was created in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s, no administration has ever denied a lawmaker access to tax returns under this law. The Trump administration, however, balked — and touched off a lengthy legal fight.
That fight effectively came to an end last month when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch plea from Trump. The committee, which has jurisdiction over tax laws, soon after went back to the Treasury Department to obtain over six years of tax records from the former president and some of his private-sector enterprise.
The congressional panel now has the materials, and its members will meet tomorrow to discuss what, if anything, to do with them before Republicans retake control of the House two weeks from tomorrow.
All of which brings us back to Trump’s social media message from last night. The former president seemed quite concerned about whether the records would be released, and for good reason: Among the possible outcomes of tomorrow’s meeting is a vote on whether to make public the very records Trump has spent years obsessively fighting to keep secret. It’s also possible that committee members will consider releasing a related report from the panel, summarizing the findings from the tax materials, and highlighting controversial details.
All of this, of course, will coincide with the Jan. 6 committee’s efforts, suggesting the former president is not likely to have an especially good week.