House Ways and Means Chairman Says 'I Don't Have Any Plan to Subpoena' Pelosi's Tax Returns

By Alex Madajian | May 24, 2019 | 2:45 PM EDT

House Ways and Means
Committee Chairman Richard
Neal (D-Mass.) (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Although the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have issued a subpoena to the IRS demanding the tax returns of President Donald Trump for 2013-2018, Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said he has no plans to demand the release of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) tax returns.

Also, when asked if he would release his tax returns, Chairman Neal did not answer directly but said, “At the right moment I’d be happy to, sure.” At that point he was escorted away by a staffer.

Speaker Pelosi heads the most powerful branch of the federal government. As she said on May 9 when asked about Congress’ authority versus that of the president, the “Legislative branch,” Congress, is a “superior branch.”

Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a letter on April 3 to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, requesting Trump’s tax returns. After several back and forth letters with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the committee’s “legislative purpose” in requesting the returns, Chairman Neal issued a subpoena on May 10 demanding that Mnuchin turn over the documents by 5:00 p.m. on May 17.

The committee has not demanded the tax returns of any previous president. The Treasury Department has agreed to brief the committee about “how the IRS conducts mandatory examinations of presidents” based upon IRS rules, said Mnuchin on May 6.

CNSNews.com contacted all 42 Ways and Means Committee members – Democrat and Republican – and asked them three questions:

-- Should the committee also subpoena the tax returns of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the six tax years from 2013 through 2018?

-- Has the representative publicly released his/her tax returns for the six tax years from 2013 through 2018? If so, where can we see copies of them?

-- If he/she has not publicly released her/his tax returns for the six tax years from 2013 through 2018 will he/she release them now?

CNSNews.com contacted each member’s office by email and telephone. Also, CNSNews.com went to several of the members’ offices and spoke with the press personnel there and interviewed several committee members in the halls of Congress.

To date, only 11 committee members (or their offices), out of 42, have responded to CNSNews.com’s questions.

Here is a transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Chairman Neal at the Capitol:

Richard Neal: “I don’t have any plan to subpoena her [Pelosi’s] tax returns. She’s not running for president.”

CNSNews.com: “But you would if she were running for president?”

Richard Neal: “I think it's a good idea for presidential candidates to release them, and I think just about all of them have. I think if you leave it to their judgment.  We have the last eight presidents have done it.”

CNSNews.com: “Will you be releasing your tax returns?”

Richard Neal: “At the right moment I’d be happy to, sure. That would probably be good.”

 

The office of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) responded “No” to all three questions, stating there is no requirement for Pelosi, or any member of Congress to release his or her tax returns.

The communications director for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) emailed the following response:

“The Chairman’s subpoena and his original request refer specifically to oversight of IRS mandatory audit process of the tax returns of sitting presidents. No such mandatory audit policy exists for Members of Congress, and a story that obscures this fact can only confuse the matter further for your publication’s readership.

“Furthermore, the president’s tax returns are a matter of public interest for reasons unique to the presidency, including their power to conduct foreign policy, their ability to influence markets with unilateral policy decisions (i.e., trade) not subject to approval or review of others, and the potential for conflicts of interest to influence such decisions.

“These are among the primary reasons why every presidential nominee for the past 40 years from both major parties released their tax returns as a candidate until this president, who promised to release them and then reneged on his promise, a tradition which is similarly unique to the presidency.”     

Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the most senior Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, did not directly respond to the questions. However, the Republican side of the committee issued a press release on May 10, referencing a letter to Chairman Neal that cautioned him against the subpoena.

The release partly read, “Such actions [a subpoena] would be an abuse of the Committee’s oversight powers and further examples of the Democrat majority’s coordinated attempt to weaponize the tax code and use Congress’s legitimate oversight authority for political gain.”

The press secretary for Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) responded to the questions by saying, “Congressman Rice releases his financial disclosure each year, as is required by law. As I’m sure you know, no taxpayer, including elected officials at any level of government, is required to release their tax returns.”

The office of Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the subcommittee on Worker and Family Support, provided a video clip of her at a committee hearing on February 7, in which she said,

“We are holding this hearing today under the guise of an academic discussion, when in reality, this is all about weaponizing our tax laws to target a political foe. Doing this, I believe, sets a dangerous precedent eroding the very laws put in place to protect the private tax return of each and every American.  Privacy and civil liberties should still matter in this country. And I for one, am here to protect every single individual, every single American in this country.”

In a face-to-face interview, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) told CNSNews.com, “We shouldn’t be subpoenaing tax returns. This is a free country. We don’t subpoena people’s tax returns.  We don’t pigeonhole people, whether they’re in elected office or [they are] your [tax returns]. Would you like yours subpoenaed?  The answer is silence: crickets.”

 

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), when asked if the committee should subpoena Speaker Pelosi’s tax returns, said,

“No, by law, Chairman Neal is following the law that the Congress passed, that the Chair of the Committee, in this case it’s Richard Neal, is standing on solid legal ground to request of the president his tax returns. And that’s the only thing I’m saying on it.  I’m not saying anything else on it.”

 

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) essentially said the lawmakers need to move on. “After two-and-a-half years, we’ve suddenly switch[ed] from Russian collusion to tax returns. So, it’ll be something else after this, believe me… it’s about 2020, this has nothing to do with reality.”

 

When asked about issuing a subpoena for Pelosi’s tax returns, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) said,

“I don’t know what the purpose is, but Chairman Neal is looking at how the IRS conducts audits of sitting presidents. And that has been the focus, to see if they are doing that in a way that is efficient.  So that is why he is making the request of those tax returns, nothing else.

“I’m prepared personally to release my taxes when the president releases his taxes.  But, at the same time, Chairman Neal’s request was specifically regarding the IRS and how they conduct audits of sitting presidents not about any elected official in general.”

 

The offices of Reps. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) did respond, saying they did not want to release any comment at this time.

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