Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday suggested that any effort by the Senate to obtain and disclose President Trump’s tax records so soon before the election could violate the internal revenue code.
Grassley, when pressed by a reporter over whether he would seek to obtain Trump’s tax records, indicated that he’s worried about them being used for “political purposes” before Election Day.
Senate Republicans are under pressure to delve into Trump’s tax records after The New York Times published a bombshell report Sunday that Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years and that he claimed a $72.9 million tax refund that is now the subject of an IRS audit.
The Times also reported that Trump owes $421 million in loans that are coming due within four years, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said raises “a national security question.”
Asked Tuesday if he would obtain Trump’s tax returns, Grassley replied: “I checked and 6103 doesn’t allow tax returns to be used for political purposes.”
Section 6203 of the tax code states that individual and business tax returns are confidential and that federal officers or employees may not disseminate those returns or the information in them without the taxpayer’s consent.
But the law provides an exception for congressional committees with jurisdiction over taxes, such as Grassley’s Finance panel.
A congressional inquiry that requests tax records, however, must do so to further a “legislative purpose,” according to a Congressional Research Service report published in 2019.
The Congressional Research Service concluded in its report that Congress does not possess the power to obtain private tax records when its inquiry is not intended to result in legislation.
The Supreme Court ruled in July that Congress could not review Trump’s tax records before a lower court scrutinized whether a congressional request was justified by significant legislative interest and balanced it against the president’s position as the head of an equal and separate branch of the federal government.
Other Senate Republicans on Tuesday demurred when asked about The Times’ reporting on Trump’s tax records, asserting it is difficult to verify claims about how much Trump paid in taxes or how much he owes in loans without original documents.
“I’ve seen the New York Times’ reporting on it but it’s based on documents that the Time declined to disclose. By all appearances, those documents were given to The Times in violation of federal criminal laws,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “Without the actual documents it’s difficult to ascertain their veracity, to know what The Times is including and what they’re excluding.”