Congress should use a rarely invoked 1924 law to examine President Donald Trump's tax returns for possible conflicts of interest and Constitutional violations, and maybe make them public, Rep. Bill Pascrell said Friday.
Pascrell, a Democrat from Paterson who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, has asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, to order the Treasury Department to provide tax returns to the committee. Brady's office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
After privately examining returns -- Pascrell is seeking 10 years' worth -- the committee could decide to share them with the full House, which would in effect make them public. The 1924 law gives congressional committees that set tax policy the power to examine tax returns. It was used in 1974 when Congress looked at President Richard Nixon's returns, and in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's handling of applications for nonprofit status.
Trump said during the campaign he would not release his returns because he was being audited. After the inauguration, adviser Kellyanne Conway said he would not release them because the public did not care.
Pascrell said what happened in the election does not matter.
“This isn’t for the Democrats or the Republicans, and it’s not to embarrass anybody," he said. "This is to make sure the American people know the facts, and if there are conflicts, they need to be resolved.”
Asked if he thought he would succeed, Pascrell said he believes many Republicans in the House and Senate "are absolutely intimidated by this president."
But on a different issue, the top Republican and Democrat on a key committee asked a top ethics regulator on Thursday to investigate whether Conway, a senior aide to Trump, violated ethics rules when she said in a television interview that people should buy the president's daughter's clothing line.
Pascrell said he did not believe Trump has turned over control of his companies to his children, and even if he did, Pascrell agreed with ethics officials who oversee the executive branch that that is not sufficient to avoid conflicts.