Trump’s New York tax returns now available to Congress under new law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure that would give key members of Congress the ability to request President Donald Trump’s state tax returns.

The law opens a new avenue for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who has sued the IRS and Treasury Department for refusing to release Trump’s federal returns, to gain insight into Trump’s personal and business financial obligations.

“This bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law,” Cuomo said in a statement.

President Donald Trump pauses while participating in a Made in America event at the White House
President Donald Trump

Democrats have been seeking to obtain six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns since April, but the administration has blocked repeated requests using a federal law, which the New York measure mimics, and subpoenas. Neal escalated the conflict last week by suing the administration for the documents.

Despite the law, Neal has said he would not request the New York state returns, because his inquiry is focused on how the IRS routinely audits presidents and vice presidents. The Trump administration has disputed that claim, saying Congress just wants the president’s returns for political sport.

A spokesman for Neal didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether he would acquire Trump’s state returns using the new New York law. William Consovoy, a lawyer for Trump, also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Trump would sue to block to the release.

New York state Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill, called it a “constitutional safety hatch” if Neal decides not to wait for his lawsuit to work its way through the courts.

“We’re putting future candidates on notice that states like New York take this matter very seriously,” Hoylman said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has said the New York law would make getting the returns “a little easier,” but under the law only the chairmen of the tax-writing committees could request the state returns.

That means Nadler and others investigating Trump, like Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, would have to rely on Neal — and technically Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who is opposed to investigating the president’s taxes.

Neal’s reluctance to use the New York law is likely to set up a clash with progressives who have criticized the Massachusetts Democrat for not moving more quickly to obtain the tax returns.

“Chairman Richard Neal should immediately request Trump’s state tax returns as he is now legally entitled to do,” Stand Up America, a progressive group, said in a statement. “Any further delay is an injustice to the American people who deserve transparency about Trump’s foreign entanglements and massive conflicts of interest.”

Neal’s lawsuit to get the tax returns could drag on for months if not years, potentially pushing any release of the tax returns beyond the 2020 presidential election.

The federal judge assigned to the case, Trevor McFadden, is a Trump appointee and it’s unclear how he’ll rule. Last month he rejected a request by House Democrats for an order blocking the president’s plan to pay for construction of his southern U.S. border wall with about $6.1 billion Congress had allocated for other purposes, saying he lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

Trump, in refusing to release his tax returns as a major-party candidate, bucked decades of tradition. He has said voters don’t care about his tax returns and that financial disclosures he’s already released are more than adequate.