On July 8, Andrew Cuomo signed into law an amendment that grants certain congressional committees access to state income tax returns.
The bill, which passed the legislature in May, mandates the release of President Trump’s state returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation, for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose”.
Although Richard Neal has been after Trump’s federal returns since April, he indicated on several occasions that he didn’t necessarily intend to take Cuomo up on the offer. Needless to say, other Democrats think this is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Well, suffice to say Trump isn’t waiting around to find out whether lawmakers will ultimately take advantage of what Brad Hoylman (the New York senator who sponsored the bill) called a “constitutional safety hatch”.
Rather, Trump is now suing to block the House from getting its hands on his state returns. The president filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington.
“Because the Committee’s jurisdiction is limited to federal taxes, no legislation could possibly result from a request for the President’s state tax returns”, the lawsuit reads. Here are a couple of key passages (the full suit is embedded below):
Committee Chairman Richard Neal was initially reluctant to use the TRUST Act. The New York returns have nothing to do with the reason he gave for requesting the President’s federal returns: “investigating the mandatory presidential audit program at the IRS to determine whether or not the program needs to be codified into federal law.” In fact, if Chairman Neal requested the New York returns, it would prove one of the defendants’ key arguments in the litigation over the federal returns—that the Chairman is trying to expose the President’s financial information for political gain, not to study the IRS’s audit procedures.
Despite his initial reluctance, Chairman Neal has recently changed his tune on the TRUST Act. According to a news report published yesterday, Chairman Neal is facing intense pressure from his fellow Democrats to invoke the TRUST Act and obtain the President’s state tax returns. Succumbing to this pressure, the Chairman recently announced that he does not oppose using the TRUST Act and that House counsel was “reviewing” it now.
Trump’s state returns would almost surely feature quite a bit of the information Neal is after given that New York is the president’s home state and the epicenter of his business “empire” (scare quotes are there because considering what everyone now knows about Trump’s not-at-all-illustrious career, it’s not clear if “empire” is the right word).
Cuomo said the bill will assist lawmakers in their efforts to fulfill their “Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law”.
Trump, on the other hand, says the House lacks a legitimate legislative purpose for using the TRUST Act. As a reminder, Trump has also leaned on the “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” excuse in attempting to block Congress from obtaining records from Mazars and Deutsche Bank, so far to no avail. He’s appealing those cases.
Trump’s attorneys suggest the situation is quite precarious for the president.
“Chairman Neal could decide to request the President’s state returns at any time, with no notice to the President and New York could respond to the request nearly instantaneously, mooting the President’s ability to object before his tax records are disclosed”, the lawsuit says. “President Trump was thus forced to bring this lawsuit to safeguard his legal rights”.
All in all, just another desperate attempt by the White House to keep Congress from getting their hands on any information that might shed more light on Trump’s notoriously opaque finances.