Democrats' Reported Presidential Tax Returns Provision Could Seriously Impact Trump In 2019

By Caroline Burke
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In the early days of 2019, the new House majority is already moving at full speed. Democrats are prioritizing a presidential tax returns provision in one of their first bills of the year, according to CNN. The provision would require presidential nominees to disclose the last 10 years of their tax returns after they become the nominee; those returns would then be posted online for public viewing. And though Trump is already president, this provision would apply to him for the 2020 presidential cycle, of which he's already declared his intent to run again.

To be clear, CNN notes that the provision is included in the H.R. 1 bill, which is unlikely to be approved by a GOP-controlled Senate, or by Trump, himself. The bill includes a vast number of initiatives, including ethics reforms, campaign finance reform, and the expansion of voting rights. Vox noted in November (when the bill was first announced) that the bill, though unlikely to be passed, will serve as a thrown gauntlet by Democrats to Republicans in Congress.

To reporters in November, Nancy Pelosi said of the bill, per Vox, “Our best friend in this debate is the public ... We believe [H.R. 1] will have great support."

Washington Post on YouTube

According to Politifact, Trump is the only president in the last several decades who has refused to release his tax returns, despite repeatedly saying in the years leading up to his presidential run that he'd be fine with doing so. CNBC notes that besides Trump, Nixon is the most recent president to have refused to release his tax returns to the public.

Trump has made several conflicting statements about his tax returns in the past. In 2014, to an Irish television station, Trump said that if he ever ran for office, "I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely. And I would love to do that."

Then, in February 2016, in the midst of his presidential campaign, Trump said on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show that he would "probably" release his returns. Shortly after that, he told Anderson Cooper in a CNN interview that his returns were "complicated," adding, "We'll make a determination over the next couple of months."

After he became president, Kellyanne Conway declared over a series of interviews that Trump would not be releasing his tax returns, that "the people didn't care," and that his returns were under audit.

Sky News on YouTube

Most recently, in November following the midterms, Trump said at a press conference via RealClearPolitics, "[My tax returns are] extremely complex. People wouldn't understand them. ... People don't understand tax returns." He further claimed that the returns were still under an audit, and that he would have "no problem" releasing his returns once that was over.

Regardless of whether the H.R. 1 bill passes, Democrats' House majority will aid them with another strategy to attain Trump's tax returns: They can also now write to the Treasury secretary via the Ways and Means Committee, per CNBC. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts is now the senior chairman of the committee, as of the new year, marking Democratic leadership of the council. In November, to reporters, Neal said of the option via The Star Tribune, "I think we will [do it]."

CNBC notes that the request could hypothetically be refused, in which case the committee could then request that the issue be settled in court. As for the audit that Trump has referenced, the timeline for that is unknown.