Rep. Richard Neal, the top Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee, plans to ask for President Donald Trump’s tax returns if Democrats win the House in November and he becomes the committee chairman.
The scope of the request and the process for how it would happen is still very much under discussion and will be part of the ongoing talks within the wider-Democratic caucus and among Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee if the Democrats take the House.
Neal, seen more within the caucus as an institutionalist than a liberal agitator, told CNN that he would hope the President would hand his returns over voluntarily.
“I think we would all be comfortable if this was done on a voluntary basis,” Neal said.
“If they would resist the overture then I think you could probably see a long and grinding court case,” he added.
If Democrats win the majority in the House, Democrats would need to get through a leadership race of their own before anyone asked for the returns. Then, the House Ways and Means Democrats would have to come up with a plan in consultation with House lawyers to ask for the documents.
“It is not cut and dry,” Neal said, noting that there was still plenty of discussion ahead for how and when to request the returns officially.
Why do Democrats think they can do this?
Under a specific IRS code, the House Ways and Means chairman can ask for Trump’s returns, as can the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. But, in addition, Democrats believe that they are on solid political footing to request the returns. Neal recounted that there is a long precedent of presidential candidates releasing their tax returns.
Still, Neal is urging patience. It’s very likely that Ways and Means would request the returns, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would say no, and House Democrats would end up in a legal battle that spans months.
“Anticipate a long court case in the end,” Neal said.