Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
It took U.S. House lawmakers more than three-and-a-half years to get their hands on former President Donald Trump’s federal tax returns, but with Republicans assuming control of the chamber next month, Democrats are quickly running out of time to examine and publish the highly sought-after records.
That’s the stark warning issued Thursday by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who told Punchbowl News: “There’s a time factor here. We got [until] January 3. And that doesn’t count up to too much time to me.”
Pascrell’s comments came after he and other Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which obtained six years of Trump’s tax returns on Wednesday following a prolonged legal battle in which the ex-president fought against sharing the financial documents that all of his predecessors since the 1970s had willingly disclosed, met in Chair Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) office.
As Punchbowl News reported Friday, “Neal is facing pressure from Ways and Means Democrats to move quickly to analyze Trump’s returns—and possibly release them to the public—before Republicans take over and make the whole question moot.”
“But Neal is providing little detail about how he plans to spend the next 32 days,” the outlet noted. “In fact, the Massachusetts Democrat wouldn’t even acknowledge gaining access to six years of Trump’s tax returns, citing privacy laws. His nonanswer comes despite the Treasury Department saying this week it had turned over the information to the panel after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the long-running battle with Trump.”
On more than one occasion, Trump—who officially launched his 2024 campaign last month—argued in court that if Democrats were to obtain his tax records, they would immediately leak them to hurt him politically. Neal’s awareness of this claim was evident as he answered reporters’ questions on Thursday.
“It’s very sensitive information,” said Neal. “We intend to deal with it professionally the way that we have.”
In contrast to the committee chair’s hesitant approach, multiple Democrats on the panel, including Pascrell and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), have made clear their desire to make Trump’s tax returns publicly available.
Speaking with MSNBC on Thursday, Pascrell said, “I want them all released.”
No one is above the law. Donald trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 day we have finally obtained the documents. We should review and release them. pic.twitter.com/OGFtU59EL0
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@BillPascrell) December 1, 2022
“These records are so important. The delay has been as long as the Civil War,” Pascrell continued. “This is unprecedented in every way. This isn’t about one man. This is not about just one part of the law. This is whether we affirm that there is no one in this country—be it the president, a congressman, or whomever—that is above the law. And we intend to follow through on this.”
Democrats will be racing against the clock, however.
According to Punchbowl News:
The only real information Neal divulged was that he has appointed an undisclosed number of staff to serve as “agents”—experts who can officially review Trump’s tax documents.
Democrats on the panel didn’t get much more info from Neal in their closed-door meeting either, according to several members we checked with after. The discussion was tense at times, with members “extremely frustrated” about the lack of transparency regarding next steps with so little time left, one Democrat told us. Led by some of their senior colleagues on the panel, Neal was grilled about his intentions and offered little on his plans.
Doggett, for his part, predicted that “before January 3, we will get some opportunity to determine—probably in executive session—whether what [the agents] found justifies our taking some further action, which could include, but does not necessarily include, releasing those to the public.”
“Personally, my opinion is that it’d be very difficult for even the most skilled agent to review these documents thoroughly,” he added. “I believe that reviewing them thoroughly may well indicate the need to look at some of the documents we don’t even yet have.”