Trump hotels exempted from ban on foreign payments under new stance

The Department of Justice has adopted a narrow interpretation of a law meant to bar foreign interests from corrupting federal officials, giving Saudi Arabia, China and other countries leeway to curry favor with Donald Trump via deals with his hotels, condos, trademarks and golf courses, legal and national security experts say.

The so-called foreign emoluments clause was intended to curb presidents and other government officials from accepting gifts and benefits from foreign governments unless Congress consents.

But in a forthcoming article in the Indiana Law Journal, the Washington University Law professor Kathleen Clark reveals justice department filings have recently changed tack. The new interpretation, Clark says, is contained in justice filings responding to recent lawsuits lodged by attorneys generals and members of Congress.

Clark’s article notes that in more than 50 legal opinions over some 150 years justice department lawyers have interpreted the clause in a way that barred any foreign payments or gifts except for ones Congress approved. But filings by the department since June 2017 reveal a new interpretation that “… would permit the president – and all federal officials – to accept unlimited amounts of money from foreign governments, as long as the money comes through commercial transactions with an entity owned by the federal official,” the professor writes.

The justice department stance now closely parallels arguments made in a January 2017 position paper by Trump Organization lawyer Sheri Dillon and several of her law partners. On 11 January 2017, just days before he was sworn in, Dillon said Trump isn’t accepting any payments in his “official capacity” as president, as the income is only related to his private business. “Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office,” Dillon said.

That goes against what many experts believe.

“For over a hundred years, the justice department has strictly interpreted the constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments clause to prohibit federal officials from accepting anything of value from foreign governments, absent congressional consent,” Clark told the Guardian.

“In 2017, the department reversed course, adopting arguments nearly identical to those put forward by Trump’s private sector lawyers. Instead of defending the republic against foreign influence, the department is defending Trump’s ability to receive money from foreign governments,” Clark added.

A justice department spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed to its filings in the emoluments lawsuits which Clark has noted contain five arguments similar to those used by Trump’s business lawyers. Among the key justice arguments is that the foreign emoluments clause only was intended to prohibit the president accepting gifts and employment compensation from a foreign government, but allows him to benefit from what it calls “commercial transactions”.

Other legal scholars also voice strong qualms about the justice department’s current position on emoluments and criticize the administration’s lax attitude about conflicts involving Trump and his business empire.

“The heart of the matter is that these are clauses meant to guard against undue foreign influence and conflicts of interest,” John Mikhail, a professor at Georgetown Law Center, said.

Two attorneys general from the District of Columbia and Maryland have filed lawsuits arguing the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where numerous foreign and state delegations have stayed or hosted events, has violated the anti corruption clauses. Some 200 members of Congress have also filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries.

The inspector general at the General Services Administration, which oversees the government-owned Old Post Office building leased by the Trump International Hotel, has faulted the agency for “improperly ignoring (the) emoluments clauses” and for conflicts of interest involving the hotel while Trump is in office.

Former intelligence officials also expressed concerns. “There’s a perception among lobbyists for foreign governments that the White House is for sale,” said Robert Baer, a 21 year CIA veteran with a Middle East background. “It’s a counter intelligence nightmare.”

The Trump Organization did pledge that while Trump was president it would donate any profits from foreign entities to the treasury. To that end it has written checks for $342,000 to the government covering the years 2017 and 2018. But some ethics watchdogs have questioned the methodology for calculating these payments, arguing it doesn’t account for foreign revenues to Trump businesses which overall have had yearly losses.

Further critics note that while Trump opted to let his two sons run his real estate businesses, and pledged he would not be involved with it as long as he was president, he has not been shy about publicly touting his properties including his Scottish golf course. Advertisement

A chief focus of critics and the emolument lawsuits has been the Trump International Hotel which has become a mini mecca for numerous foreign delegations – including ones from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and the Philippines – who have used it for overnight stays and various meetings.

The hotel is leased from the GSA for 60 years and located on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. The IG’s report this January said the lease should have been reviewed again with Trump’s election to determine if it was in violation of the emoluments clause.

Critics of Trump’s ongoing ties to the Trump International and his business empire also note that some countries with major political and business problems in Washington have frequented his properties. “It appears that President Trump may be benefiting from foreign use of his properties designed to influence his decisions,” said the former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards.

For instance, a 60-person Malaysian government delegation stayed at Trump International in the fall of 2017 at a time when the justice department was conducting a major corruption investigation of Malaysian officials including the then prime minister, Najib Razak, who had a White House meeting with Trump during their stay, as first reported by radio station WAMU and Reveal.

Meanwhile, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia, which has aggressively courted Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent at least $270,000 at his DC hotel after Trump won the election, booking 500 rooms over an estimated three-month period, according to a Washington Post report.

Last March, a Saudi delegation traveling with the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seemed to enjoy a lavish stay at Trump’s New York hotel, which helped to reverse a two-year revenue decline at the property, according to the Washington Post.

These foreign dealings with Trump hotels are exhibit A for many critics of the weak kneed enforcement of the emoluments clause in the Trump era.

“This administration gives off every appearance of turning the White House into a giant cash register,” said Mikhail. “ Rather than drawing bright lines between the Trump Organization and the Trump administration they seem intent on blurring those lines.”

The lawsuits have to wend their way through the courts – which could see tough battles given mixed court rulings thus far. But critics in Congress and outside are raising more questions about emoluments and Trump’s business conflicts as new issues keep arising.

“Congress now must conduct independent oversight so the American people can determine for themselves whether the President is acting in our nation’s best interests or his own,” said congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House committee on oversight and reform.

Mike Carpenter, who served on the National Security Council in the Obama years, added: “When foreign powers patronize the president’s businesses it creates an enormous national security risk.”

[The Guardian]

Trump earmarks $20 million for golfer Jack Nicklaus’ pet project in new proposed federal budget

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal has come under much scrutiny. A portion of the budget requests $20 million to go towards Trump’s golf buddy Jack Nicklaus’s mobile children’s hospital project.

The money will go towards expanding Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to offer mobile services, which Nicklaus has long lobbied for.

“The $20 million increase will continue support for the pediatric disaster care pilot initiative which aims to improve pediatric care during emergencies,” the budget proposal reads.

“Nicklaus had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children’s hospitals, one individual said,” Politico reported.

Trump and Nicklaus have constantly golfed together since November the report said.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and HHS did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

Read the full report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary

President Trump reportedly passed along a handwritten policy pitch from a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to then-Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkinaccording to a ProPublica report Wednesday.

The note was penned by Trump’s friend Albert Hazzouri, a cosmetic dentist in Scranton, Penn., on Mar-a-Lago stationery after the two saw each other in late 2017.

The letter, which was obtained by ProPublica, is addressed “Dear King” and appears to propose the government pay for more dental care for veterans.

It reportedly was sent on behalf of the American Dental Association (ADA), though ProPublica noted that details of the pitch were murky.

Scrawled at the top of Hazzouri’s note is a message from the president, written in black marker, ProPublica reported.

It says “Send to David S at the V.A.,” referring to Shulkin.

A Trump aide stamped “The president has seen” on the note as well.

The White House and the ADA did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Hill.

The proposal did not advance, according to ProPublica. Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018, told the publication that he does not recall receiving the message. Hazzouri said neither he nor the ADA ever met with the agency.

Hazzouri told the outlet that he had only a vague idea of the proposal he was vouching for on behalf of the ADA, noting that he passed along the note as a favor to the organization.

“I’m really not involved in any politics. I’m just a small-time dentist,” he said. “I guess there’s a lot of money spent on veterans’ care and American Native Indians’ care, and I guess they wanted to have a little hand in it, the American Dental Association, to try to guide what’s going on or whatever.”

A spokeswoman for the ADA declined to elaborate on the reported pitch to the president by Hazzouri, according to ProPublica.

Michael Graham, who leads the ADA’s lobbying arm in Washington, told ProPublica that one of his staffers had raised the topic with Hazzouri. 

“The ADA has been looking into how we can get involved in veterans’ issues,” Graham said. “Lots of vets may not be eligible but need care.”

Hazzouri received a shoutout from Trump during a campaign event in 2016, according to ProPublica. 

“Stand up, Albert. Where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him. Right?” Trump said. 

Addressing the president as “King” was an inside joke with Trump from before the New York business mogul became president, Hazzouri said.

“I call other people King,” he explained. “It’s a very personal thing.”

This is not the first time a Mar-a-Lago club member has appeared to influence the Trump administration, according to ProPublica.

Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month reportedly opened an investigation into whether three associates of Trump, including a Mar-a-Lago club member, influenced hiring decisions at the VA.

[The Hill]

Trump’s 2020 Campaign Has Reportedly Funneled Over $1 Million Into His Own Businesses

Federal election filings analyzed by Forbes say that Trump’s 2020 campaign has raked in millions of dollar from donors while Trump himself has converted at least $1.1 million of those donor funds into his own money by charging “the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting.”

Trump Tower Commercial LLC is a New York State-based entity owned by the 45th president. As of the latest campaign finance filing, the entity had charged Trump’s re-election campaign at least $665,000 in rent. An additional $225,000 in rent payments have been made to this entity through a similar arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC).

The extent of the space currently being rented by the 2020 campaign and the RNC is currently unknown but reporter Dan Alexander‘s reporting suggests one of two things: an extreme amount of real estate is currently being occupied–or the Trump Tower business is heavily inflating real estate prices.

Per Forbes:

Leading up to the 2016 election, the president’s campaign paid an average of $2,700 in monthly Trump Tower rent for every person listed in campaign filings as receiving a “payroll” payment. The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person.

And that’s not all.

There’s also the matter of a separate Trump-owned and New York State-based entity known as Trump Plaza LLC. This entity currently controls a retail space, a parking garage, and two medium-sized apartment buildings.

According to federal filings, the Trump 2020 campaign has paid Trump Plaza LLC at least $42,000 in rent since November 2017–but, according to Forbes, there doesn’t appear to be any campaign activity occurring on any such property owned by the entity.

For one, the retail space simply has nothing campaign-related going on whatsoever. Same goes for the parking garage–which appears to be sub-leased to a non-Trump company at present. As for the apartment buildings? It doesn’t look like there’s any campaign-related activity happening there either.

Again, Alexander’s report:

Forbes staked out the buildings, arriving at 7:15 a.m. one November morning and staying for the next 14 hours, with the exception of an 18-minute break around 3 p.m. By our count, seven people went in and out of the twin, four-story brownstones over the course of the day. One refused to talk, and six said they had not seen any sign of the campaign in the buildings. Nor had a man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”

The report goes on to speculate that it’s “unlikely” Trump’s 2020 campaign would simply hand cash over to the president for “nothing in return,” and cites an unnamed Trump 2016 staffer who said that Trump Plaza apartments would occasionally serve as crash pads for Trump campaign staff. If that’s the case, of course, it would be a lot cheaper to occasionally rent hotel rooms, but, Alexander notes, “that would not guarantee a steady stream of rent for the president.”

Breaking down that revenue stream is also illustrative.

Since Trump Plaza LLC began charging Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign “rent” in November 2017,  such payments have averaged out to some $4,200 per month. Those amounts appear to be quite a bit above market value.

According to Forbes‘ recent perusal of real estate website StreetEasy, recent rents in the same brownstone apartments have gone for $3,700 and $3,850–substantially lower prices (especially in the fiercely competitive Manhattan real estate market) than what Trump’s campaign has been paying the president’s own business for alleged campaign use of those circumspect properties.

And even if it doesn’t seem like much of up-charge? According to Federal Election Commission rules, campaigns are supposed to pay “fair market value” for all goods and services they use–especially when they use and pay their own businesses.

[Law and Crime, Inquisitr]

Saudi-Funded Lobbyists Paid For 500 Nights At Trump D.C. Hotel Right After Election

Saudi Arabia-funded lobbyists paid for rooms at President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel within a month of the 2016 presidential election and kept coming back, racking up more than 500 nights worth of rooms in three months, The Washington Post reported, citing documents and organizers of the stays.

The Saudi-backed organizers were putting up veterans who were offered a free trip to Washington to help lobby against a law that Saudi Arabia opposed, the Post reported.

(Read the full Washington Post story.)

The lobbyists at first were hosting veterans in northern Virginia, but switched to the Trump hotel in December 2016. One organizer said the move was because the Trump International Hotel offered a discount from the usual $768 a night rate, and denied it was to try to gain favor with Trump.

But some of the vets the Post interviewed said they felt like they were being used twice ― to lobby for Saudi Arabia, and then again to bring business to Trump.

“It made all the sense in the world, when we found out that the Saudis had paid for it,” said Navy veteran Henry Garcia. He went on three trips, and said that what made the Trump hotel trips different from trips with other veterans groups were the private rooms, open bars and free dinners.

“We’ve done hundreds of veterans events, and we’ve stayed in Holiday Inns and eaten Ritz Crackers and lemonade. And we’re staying in this hotel that costs $500 a night,” said Marine veteran Dan Cord.

Trump’s business interests are in the spotlight once again as the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general served subpoenas on the Trump Organization and a dozen related businesses on Wednesday, CNN reported.

The subpoenas are seeking business documents that may show foreign payments to the hotel.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump is profiting from foreign and state spending at his D.C. hotel, in violation of the Constitution’s ban on gifts from foreign governments. The Justice Department has signaled it may try to fight the evidence-gathering process.

Trump has defended the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after intelligence agencies fingered the prince in the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi royal family and its allies have spent tens of millions on Trump hotels and condos.

[Huffington Post]

New emails show Trump’s unqualified Mar-a-Lago buddies are influencing VA policies

A new batch of emails obtained by Pro Publica show that three members of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort are influencing contract and budget decisions at the Department of Veterans Affairs — despite being completely unqualified to do so.

The emails show that the three Mar-a-Lago members — Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, West Palm Beach physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman — were involved in “some of the agency’s most consequential matters, most notably a multibillion-dollar effort to overhaul electronic health records for millions of veterans,” Pro Publica writes.

According to Pro Publica, the trio reviewed a draft of a $10 billion contract to overhaul the VA’s electronic medical records system, and they were listed among 40 different outside “experts” consulted for the contract despite lacking “any relevant expertise.”

Additionally, the emails show that Moskowitz used his position as an adviser to get the VA to adopt his mobile medical app, even though IT officials at the VA said that the app had serious functionality problems. In fact, one email shows that a VA IT official believed that “some of the code needs to be refactored and even rebuilt” for the app to work properly.

Moskowitz even recruited his son, Aaron Moskowitz, to pitch the benefits of the app during a conference between the VA and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Apple experts similarly pushed back on Moskowitz’s mobile app and said that “the national databases needed to make the app accurate didn’t exist,” Pro Publica writes.

[Raw Story]

Ivanka Trump made $3.9 million from D.C. hotel in 2017

President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump made $3.9 million in profit last year off her stake in the Trump International Hotel, while taking in at least $5 million from businesses connected to her personal brand, a newly released financial disclosure shows.

Ivanka Trump also reported taking in about $2 million in 2017 pay and severance from an entity called the Trump Payroll Corp., the disclosure said.

She received $289,000 in an advance for her book published last year, “Women Who Work,” and donated those funds to a charitable trust she oversees that “will make grants to organizations that empower and educate women and girls.” There was no indication that she received royalties in connection with the book in 2017.

The figures come from forms that high-ranking and highly paid federal employees are required to file every year in May.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are serving as senior advisers to the president without pay, but they have agreed to abide by ethics requirements for senior White House staff.

On Monday, as President Trump was in Singapore for the high-profile summit with North Korea‘s leader, Kim Jong Un, the White House began releasing the forms covering last year.

Ivanka Trump’s reported income from the hotel in calendar year 2017 was up substantially from a report she filed last spring showing about $2.4 million in income from the hotel since it opened in September 2016.

The forms provide only limited insight into the finances of individuals as wealthy as Ivanka Trump and Kushner. Amounts are typically reported in broad ranges. Also complicating comparisons is the fact that last year’s filings for new government staffers covered a 16-month period.

Disclosure forms filed earlier this year appeared to show an uptick in the couple’s debts as they entered the White House last year. It’s unclear whether that trend continued through the end of the year.

The president’s son-in-law’s filing no longer lists under assets or income his role with Observer Media, the New York-based online news organization he founded in 2007. Kushner reported earning $4.5 million from advertising revenue at the company in 2017 but stepped down last January when he joined the Trump White House.

In this year’s form, Kushner said he divested his ownership in Observer Media, though he also reported making between $100,001 and $1 million in capital gains. Kushner’s form says he does still own between $5,000,001 and $25,000,000 in stock shares for Source Media Holdings, a digital media company owned by Observer Capital that serves business professionals working in the financial, technology and health care sectors.

President Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, reported taking in $569,423 in salary from Fox News from the beginning of last year until he joined the White House in April.

Bolton also earned nearly $750,000 in speaking fees during the same period — $115,000 for speaking to conferences sponsored by the Ukrainian steel mogul Victor Pinchuk.

Pinchuk’s donations of more than $13 million to the Clinton Foundation drew criticism and, during the 2016 campaign, were painted by many Clinton critics as evidence of corruption.

In September 2015, then-candidate Trump spoke to a Pinchuk conference in Kiev in exchange for a $150,000 donation to the Donald J. Trump foundation.

Bolton’s highest reported fee for a single speech, $100,000, came in May 2017 while receiving a Guardian of Zion award from the Rennert Center in Jerusalem. The next highest was a speech earlier that month to Deutsche Bank for $72,000, after a commission paid to his agent, the Washington Speakers Bureau.

[Politico]

Trump picks handbag designer, Mar-a-Lago member to be envoy to South Africa

President Donald Trump has nominated handbag designer Lana Marks to be the next US ambassador to South Africa.

Marks, a Florida resident and member of Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a source familiar with the club, was born and raised in South Africa, where she attended the University of the Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg, the White House said in a statement.

Marks is photographed and quoted giving a warm testimonial on the website of Mar-a-Lago’s official photographer, saying she had captured her daughter’s wedding at the club “in a very special way.”

Marks is known for luxury handbags in exotic animal skins, such as ostrich and alligator, with prices that can hover above $19,000. One of her more expensive creations, a $400,000 clutch, has been carried on the red carpet. The designer’s website features photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston carrying her goods and says her accessories have become a favorite among “royalty and entertainment style makers.”

Ballet and tennis

Described by the Palm Beach Daily as “like Trump, a relentless self-promoter,” Marks speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, two of South Africa’s languages, according to the White House.

Her website chronicles an upbringing that included studying at the Royal Academy of Ballet. The concept for starting an exotic leather handbag line came, the site says, when Marks couldn’t find a bag to match the suit she planned to wear to a birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth. According to her Instagram accountshe attempted to qualify for the French Open tennis tournament in 1978.

Marks’ site also notes that she was appointed to the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, which supports the Women and Public Policy Program. Both the board and the program focus on gender equality and improving lives around the world, the Harvard site says. The Harvard site notes that board members “engage philanthropically” with the policy program “through three annual giving tiers.”

Board members provide a minimum annual gift of $10,000 per individual member, $20,000 per Leadership Circle member and $25,000 per corporation.

[CNN]

Trump properties received $3.2 million during midterms, FEC records show

Campaigns and PACs spent at least $3.2 million at Trump-owned and branded properties throughout the two-year midterm election cycle, a CNN analysis of Federal Election Commission filings shows. And the total could rise after post-election financial reports are published by the commission.

No single group spent more than the Republican National Committee, which spent at least $1.2 million at the properties since the start of 2017.
About half of the RNC spending came in two installments — $367,000 for travel expenses at Trump National Doral Miami in mid-June, after the group’s spring meetings at the Florida club, and $222,000 for “venue rental and catering” at Mar-A-Lago in March connected to fundraising events at the resort.
Trump’s own presidential reelection campaign was also among the groups spending the most at Trump properties throughout 2017 and 2018, despite not being on the ballot. The campaign has spent more than $950,000 at Trump properties since the start of 2017.
And America First Action — a pro-Trump super PAC founded early in 2017 and funded primarily by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson — was another top patron of Trump properties, dropping at least $360,000 throughout the cycle.
Overall, the $3.2 million in spending at Trump properties during the midterms was down slightly from the 2016 presidential cycle. Between 2015 and 2016, Trump properties raked in at least $3.7 million from campaigns and PACs, with the Trump campaign itself accounting for north of $2 million of the spending during that cycle. That included rent paid from the campaign to the Trump Organization for its headquarters space in Trump Tower, floors below Trump’s office and penthouse apartment.
In 2018, the spending has gone to a mix of venue rental, catering, and travel expenses across multiple properties. Trump Tower in New York has drawn nearly $740,000; the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, has drawn $1.4 million; and a pair of Trump’s Florida properties, Mar-A-Lago and Trump National Doral, have drawn nearly $1 million combined.
In response to a request for comment on RNC spending at the properties, an RNC official said donors enjoy visiting Trump properties, and also pointed to security, convenience and price as factors in the committee’s decision-making.
The official added that Trump properties are often cheaper to rent than other venues, noting that the FEC demands the RNC receive market rates.
A Trump Organization spokeswoman did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment.
After Trump was elected President, he placed his business into a trust controlled by his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, but did not liquidate his holdings or let an independent manager handle the trust without his knowledge — the approach favored by past presidents and by ethics experts, because it separates the President’s personal profit motive from his decisions on behalf of the government.
The setup has drawn criticism from ethics watchdogs, who say it allows for the appearance of a conflict of interest. The Trump administration has consistently defended the legality of the arrangement.
House Democrats, newly in control of the chamber, have vowed to bring investigations into Trump’s businesses in the coming congressional session.

[CNN]

Trump on prospect of Dems demanding his tax returns: ‘They can do whatever they want’

President Trump on Monday downplayed the possibility that Democrats could demand his tax returns if they retake control of the House in Tuesday’s elections.

“I don’t care. They can do whatever they want and I can do whatever I want,” Trump said when asked if he was concerned Democrats may go after his tax returns if they win the majority.

Trump spoke to reporters upon arriving in Fort Wayne, Ind., for one of three campaign rallies he was set to hold on Monday. He suggested that a Democratic majority would force the White House to “have to work a little bit differently.”

“It’ll all work out but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Trump said, expressing confidence in Republicans’ chances on Tuesday. “I think we’re doing very well in the House. I think we’re doing very well in the Senate.”

Democrats and critics of the president have suggested that Trump’s tax returns could reveal potential conflicts of interest, and liberal groups have urged Democratic lawmakers to demand the president’s filings should they regain control of the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month that compelling Trump to turn over his tax returns would be “one of the first things we’d do” if Democrats win back the House majority.

Under federal tax law, the chairmen of congressional tax committees can request tax returns from the Treasury Department and review them in a closed session before voting to make all or parts of the returns public.

While Trump may protest such a request, the decision would ultimately fall to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin told The New York Times earlier this month that he would work with the department’s general counsel and the general counsel for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address any requests should Democrats win the House.

The president broke with decades of precedent when he opted not to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The White House has repeatedly brushed off questions about releasing Trump’s taxes after the election, claiming the documents were under audit and therefore could not be made public. Financial experts, reporters and lawmakers have noted that the president could still request that they be released.

Calls for Trump to release his returns intensified following a New York Times report that cited records and interviews indicating the president engaged in “dubious” tax practices to shield income from his father’s real estate empire from taxes. Trump and the White House blasted the story, though they did not refute specific claims.

[The Hill]

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