Democrats and GOP square off over Trump's tax returns

Trump back to combative self after appeal for compromise

House Democrats take 1st step to obtain Trump's tax returns

US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Germany, on July 7, 2017.

That goal has been high on their list of priorities since they won control of the House in November's midterm elections, but asking for Trump's returns is likely to set off a huge legal battle with his administration.

"The president's actions and posture towards Russian Federation during the campaign, transition, and administration have only heightened fears of foreign financial or other leverage over President Trump", Schiff said in a statement Wednesday.

The House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing about obtaining President Trump's tax returns from the Secretary of the Treasury.

Smith argues that voters elected Trump knowing he had refused to release his taxes and says the president is entitled to the "same privacy and legal protections" of any citizen and he does " not support the unilateral disclosure of the president's tax returns by Congress or any of its members".

Representative John Lewis, Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, drew a parallel with the Watergate era, citing an IRS audit of former President Richard Nixon that congressional investigators later discovered had missed almost $480,000 in owed taxes and interest.

"The law is on our side", Pascrell, a member or Ways and Means, said during an interview on Bloomberg TV.

Thursday's hearings were just the beginning. Prior to Trump's refusal to disclose his returns, it was more than 40 years since a president hadn't voluntarily disclosed his tax returns.

"I'd suspect that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at that already", said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, "and hopefully it's part of a report that is submitted to us shortly".

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Pascrell was referring to a 1924 law that allows the chairs of Congress's tax committees to look into anyone's confidential returns.

But Republicans maintained a steady theme: that obtaining Trump's tax returns is both unnecessary and sets a risky precedent. "It would set a very unsafe precedent".

Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of IN said forcing the Treasury secretary to hand over Trump's returns was tantamount to "weaponizing our tax laws to target a political foe". (Glimpses into leaked tax information obtained by the New York Times showed Trump claimed operating losses of $916 million in 1995, which would have protected him for up to 18 years' worth of taxes.) It's by no means certain that Trump's personal returns would answer any of those questions.

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.

Democrats are pushing for the package of spending bills Congress is writing to include language that would block the Trump administration from tightening the bar on those seeking asylum.

"I don't see any wiggle room in the statute for the secretary to refuse a request", Yin said.

On Friday, Democrats are hauling Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker before Congress for the first time. Other presidents and presidential nominees have released one year's worth (Republican Ronald Reagan) to 33 years' worth (Republican Jeb Bush) of returns for the public to review. House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said in a statement that Democrats want the figure to be less than $2 billion. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said that negotiators have been working tirelessly and are "98, 99 percent" done but he was unsure if the president would sign it. Republicans said they did not expect to clinch a deal on Thursday but were close.

Schiff's Intelligence Committee is also planning a deep-dive into Trump's financial and business ties to Russian Federation, suggesting that they could involve money laundering.

Democrats maintained they are interested in conflicts of interest in Trump's income and businesses.

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