NY Governor Signs Bill Letting Congress Get Trump’s Tax Returns

Some members of Congress can access President Donald Trump’s New York state tax returns after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing it on July 8.

Cuomo, a Democrat, is a fierce opponent of Trump, a Republican, and often issues statements condemning the president’s latest actions.

Cuomo in a statement after signing the bill into law said, “Tax secrecy is paramount—the exception being for bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes.”

“By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system, and ensure that no one is above the law,” he added.

NTD Photo
President Donald Trump speaks to the press before signing a bill for border funding legislation in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on July 1, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump has declined to make public his tax returns, in contrast to a number of former presidents. But there is no law requiring presidents or presidential contenders to release their tax returns.

The New York bill, which passed the state Senate and Assembly in May, requires the state to share state income tax returns and reports if they’re requested by the chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Any information that would violate state or federal law would be redacted.

“Such request must be accompanied by certification that the tax returns or reports have been requested for a specified and legitimate legislative purpose, the requesting committee has made a written request to the U.S Secretary of the Treasury for related federal returns or return information and that the returns will be treated by the requesting committee in a manner consistent with federal law authorizing the same committees to request and receive federal income tax returns from the U.S. Treasury,” Cuomo’s office said in a statement.

Steven Mnuchin and Richard Neal
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) speaks with Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neal, prior to testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 14, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has said that he wouldn’t utilize New York’s law if it passed, believing it could harm his effort to obtain Trump’s federal tax information.

He also said that lawmakers don’t have jurisdiction over New York.

“We don’t have jurisdiction over New York taxes,” Neal told Bloomberg in June.

Other lawmakers were eager to use the new law to get any tax information on Trump they could, with some saying Neal might be persuaded to change his mind.

“At this moment in time Chairman Neal has taken this position, but we’ll see how he decides to proceed in the face of continued obstruction from the administration,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said. “That may cause the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to change his mind.”

Democratic lawmakers have been seeking Trump’s taxes for months in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which lacked the evidence the opposition party had hoped to seize upon to try to impeach the president.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives
Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives to make a statement about the Russia investigation at the Justice Department in Washington on May 29, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Neal’s committee filed a lawsuit on July 2 in one of the latest attempts to get the tax information, asking a judge “to seek relief” from Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig’s “refusal to produce tax return information concerning President Donald J. Trump in response to the committee’s valid oversight requests.”

Citing Section 6103(f), the committee said it could request any tax information without disclosing why it wants the information. The committee then explained that members could disclose why it wants the information in this case, arguing that it needed to see if Trump was complying with tax law.

Mnuchin has said that the request by Congress for six years of Trump’s tax returns “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” as Supreme Court precedent requires, and that the Department of Justice is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”

The department affirmed Mnuchin’s assertation on June 14, saying because Neal had wanted to make the president’s tax returns public, the request would not carry out a legitimate legislative function.