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Rep. Richard Neal says New York Times investigation into President Donald Trump’s taxes bolsters court case to make them public

September 28, 2020
In The News

SPRINGFIELD — The New York Times' exhaustive report into President Donald J. Trump’s troubled finances and a looming tax audit that could cost him more than $100 million asks the same question U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal wants to see answered.

“We want the IRS to tell us how they audit a presidential tax form,” Neal, D-Springfield, said Monday in the wake of the Times expose. “I think this helps our case.”

Neal is chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which filed a lawsuit in July 2019 to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over six year’s of the president’s tax returns.

The case is now before Trump-appointed federal Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington. Neal said there is some speculation that McFadden is waiting for a decision in a case involving former White House counsel Don McGahn. In separate litigation, congressional Democrats are seeking to force McGahn to testify about alleged wrongdoings by Trump.

For Neal, it is a question of congressional oversight into the workings of the executive branch — and a question that was moot during past presidencies because every man to hold the office since the disgraced Richard Nixon voluntarily released taxes as they campaigned. Gerald Ford, who took office after Nixon’s resignation and never campaigned for the office, did not release his returns.

“We want the public to know, as well as ourselves, actually how does the IRS go about auditing a presents tax forms,” Neal said. “Any president.”

Among the attention-grabbing details is the fact that Trump paid just $750 a year in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Neal said he’s also concerned by the $72.9 million tax refund Trump claimed and received in 2010.

On Sunday, the Times reported why Trump might have avoided the disclosure and why he’s fighting not only Neal and his committee in court but also state prosecutors in New York City. According to the newspaper, Trump has $421 million in loans and other debts, with much of it coming over the next four years.

“That’s a matter that the president has with his creditors,” Neal said. “But there does seem to be a consistent pattern of leveraging borrow more and more. And you have to make those payments.”

Neal took criticism for not suing Trump earlier to get the tax returns. The suit was filed only after months of unsuccessful wrangling with Trump and the administration. For months Neal was reluctant to discuss the matter at all, saying he’d been told by legal counsel to watch his words carefully so as not to give the impression that the legal case was a political ploy.

Neal said it isn’t political, arguing that it’s about oversight of a presidential administration and that it goes back at least to Article I of the U.S. Constitution — and, he said, even back to the Magna Carta.

“We want to establish a precedent that presidential tax forms are subject to congressional review,” Neal said. “This was not going to be done in haste to satisfy an election cycle. In fact, if we indicated that if this was being done to satisfy an election cycle, the federal judiciary would not have looked kindly on it."

Neal said he expects the case to go to the United States Supreme Court, and that the litigation will go on even if former Vice President Joe Biden defeats Trump in November.

Neal’s prediction about the case going to the Supreme Court, which he has made before, raises questions about the court and its makeup. With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett as the next justice.

Neal wouldn’t speculate as to whether the tax matter should come up at Barrett’s confirmation hearings.

But Neal pointed out that Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voted with the majority and against the president this summer when a preliminary procedural part of the tax question went to the Supreme Court, and both Neal and the New York prosecutors won.