For more than four years, President Donald Trump has refused to release his federal income tax returns. Friday, his attorney said the president plans to continue doing so, despite pressure from House Democrats to make the returns public.
In a letter to the Treasury Department, Trump’s attorney William Consovoy called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reject a request from the House Ways and Means Committee to release the president’s personal and business tax returns.
“It would be a gross abuse of power for the majority party to use tax returns as a weapon to attack, harass, and intimidate their political opponents,” Consovoy wrote on Friday. “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, the ensuing tit-for-tat will do lasting damage to our nation.”
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, demanded Trump’s returns on Wednesday, following months of a slow and meticulous start to a number of investigations into the Trump White House by Democrats newly in control of the House of Representatives.
Neal wants six years worth of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns and returns for business entities tied to his name, spanning 2013 through 2018. The chairman set an April 10 deadline for returns’ release.
The president’s legal team made clear this week that it has every intention to fight House Democrats tooth and nail over the issue. The team has already indicated a willingness to bring the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s argument for why he shouldn’t release his returns keeps changing
Trump defied decades of precedent in refusing to release his returns — every modern presidential party nominee has made their tax returns public at one point or another. The president has justified his refusal to follow suit, but his justifications keep changing.
Over the course of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump waffled over whether he’d actually make his returns available to the public. Before formally announcing his campaign, Trump promised conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt he would release his returns should he run for president. The president then punted on the issue after he formally declared his candidacy months later, saying in August 2015 that he’d release them “at some point.”
Trump teased of a big tax return reveal during the Republican primary season. But as Vox’s Andrew Prokop notes, Trump’s storyline started to shift around the time he edged closer to clinching the party’s nomination. Trump began arguing that he was barred from releasing his returns because he was being audited by the IRS. Only after the audit was finished would he be able to make the returns public, he claimed.