On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, Congressman Bill Pascrell introduced a resolution that would have legally obtained Donald Trump’s tax returns from 2006 through 2015, to be examined by the House Ways and Means committee. This resolution did not attempt to make Donald Trump’s tax returns available to the general public. All that it attempted to do was to make Trump’s tax returns available to a small, closed meeting of a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, in the context of an ongoing investigation into the unethical, and potentially illegal, connections between the government of Russia and the Trump for President campaign.
Pascrell cited both the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump’s links with Vladimir Putin and Trump’s apparent use of his company’s Trump hotels as a means of channeling bribes from foreign officials. The Trump Hotel has opened up a marketing office explicitly dedicated to convincing foreign diplomats who want to curry favor with Trump to rent out expensive hotel suites from the hotel.
“There is nothing more of a threat to the integrity of this House than ignoring our duty to provide a check and balance to the executive branch,” said Pascrell in a speech to his colleagues. “To restore the dignity of the House, we must use our authority to request President Trump’s tax returns and give the American people the transparency they deserve. The American people demand, Mr. Speaker, to know the full scope of the President’s financial background. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution includes a clause prohibiting foreign emoluments to the President. The Office of Government Ethics – I can’t stress this enough – has warned us about the President’s decision not to divest or set up a blind trust. And there is a need to fully understand the President’s ties to Russia.”
Congressional Republicans were unmoved. Republican U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy placed a motion on the desk of the House Speaker to “table” Pascrell’s resolution – to prevent it from being considered. Then, on a vote of 229 to 185 in which not one Republican had the courage to step away from the party line, McCarthy’s motion was approved.
This was a vote to cover up evidence of high crimes by the President of the United States.
Representative Pascrell’s resolution can be read below.
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President shall immediately disclose his tax return information to Congress and the American people.
Whereas, in the United States’ system of checks and balances, Congress has a responsibility to hold the Executive Branch of government to the highest standard of transparency to ensure the public interest is placed first;
Whereas, according to the Tax History Project, every President since Gerald Ford has disclosed their tax return information to the public;
Whereas, tax returns provide an important baseline disclosure/because they contain highly instructive information including whether the candidate paid taxes, what they own, what they have borrowed and from whom, whether they have made any charitable donations, and whether they have taken advantage of tax loopholes;
Whereas, disclosure of the President’s tax returns could help those investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election understand the President’s financial ties to the Russian Federation and Russian citizens, including debts owed and whether he shares any partnership interests, equity interests, joint ventures or licensing agreements with Russia or Russians;
Whereas, the New York Times has reported that President Trump’s close senior advisers, including Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and General Michael Flynn, have been under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their ties to the Russian Federation;
Whereas, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax, a Russian media outlet, on November 10, 2016 that “there were contacts” with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and it has been reported that members of President Trump’s inner circle were in contact with senior Russian officials throughout the 2016 campaign;
Whereas, according to his 2016 candidate filing with the Federal Election Commission, the President has 564 financial positions in companies located in the United States and around the world;
Whereas, against the advice of ethics attorneys and the Office of Government Ethics, the President has refused to divest his ownership stake in his businesses;
Whereas, the director of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics said that the President’s plan to transfer his business holdings to a trust managed by family members is “meaningless” and “does not meet the standards . . . that every president in the past four decades has met”;
Whereas, the Emoluments Clause was included in the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of preventing federal officials from accepting any “present, Emolument, Office, or Title . . . from any King, Prince, or foreign state”;
Whereas, according to the Washington Post, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. has hired a “director of diplomatic sales” to generate high-priced business among foreign leaders and diplomatic delegations;
Whereas, according to the New York Times, the President used a legally dubious tax maneuver in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal taxes for 18 years;
Whereas, the most signed petition on the White House website calls for the release of the President’s tax return information to verify compliance with the Emoluments Clause, with 1 million, 74 thousand signatures as of date of this resolution;
Whereas, the Chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee, Joint Committee on Taxation, and Senate Finance Committee have the authority to request the President’s tax returns under Section 6103 of the tax code;
Whereas, the Joint Committee on Taxation reviewed the tax returns of President Richard Nixon in 1974 and made the information public;
Whereas, the Ways and Means Committee used IRC 6103 authority in 2014 to make public the confidential tax information of 51 taxpayers;
Whereas, the American people have the right to know whether or not their President is operating under conflicts of interest related to international affairs, tax reform, government contracts, or otherwise: Now, therefore, be it:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives shall–
1. Immediately request the tax return information of Donald J. Trump for tax years 2006 through 2015 for review in closed executive session by the Committee on Ways and Means, as provided under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, and vote to report the information therein to the full House of Representatives
2. Support transparency in government and the longstanding tradition of Presidents and Presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns.”