Trump’s tax returns trigger tussle

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WASHINGTON — With Democrats now controlling the House and holding the legal key to seeking President Donald Trump’s tax returns, Republican lawmakers are invoking privacy in defending Trump’s flank.

At an oversight hearing Thursday, lawmakers examined proposals to compel presidents and presidential candidates to make years of their tax returns public. And they discussed the authority under current law for the head of the House Ways and Means Committee — now Democratic Rep. Richard Neal — to make a written request for any tax returns to the Treasury secretary.

The law says the Treasury chief “shall furnish” the requested information to members of the committee for them to examine behind closed doors.

Republicans accused the Democrats of using powers in the tax law to mount a political witch hunt for Trump’s tax returns. “In reality, this is all about weaponizing our tax laws to attack a political foe,” Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana said at the hearing by the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.

Getting Trump’s returns has been high on the Democrats’ list of priorities since they won control of the House in November’s midterm elections, but asking for them will probably set off a huge legal battle with his administration.

The Democrats tried and failed several times to obtain Trump’s returns as the minority party in Congress, seeking to shed light on his complex financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest. Their newly energized leftward wing is pushing Neal to set the quest in motion, and fast.

Thursday’s hearing appeared to set the table for the move by examining the legal foundations.

“A strong case is being built,” William Tranghese, an aide to Neal, told The Associated Press this week. He said Neal is consulting with lawyers for the House “to determine the appropriate legal steps to go forward with this unprecedented request.”

Trump broke with decades of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to release his income tax filings during his 2016 campaign.

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