Democrats in the House of Representatives may be outnumbered, but they are hardly silent. Today's House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the Obamacare repeal led several Democrats to bring up Donald Trump's missing tax returns and obvious conflicts of interest.
No one had more fun doing this than Rep. Bill Pascrell, who pointed out in his remarks that he doesn't play golf and hoped that he was pronouncing "Dubai" correctly.
His more serious remarks reflected almost word-for-word a letter he sent to the committee's chairman last month. (Endnotes were entered into the record but not included on the Congressman's website.)
Dear Chairman Brady:
The Founding Fathers were determined to prevent corruption among public officeholders under our Constitution. The emoluments clause prohibits federal officeholders from accepting foreign gifts or emoluments without congressional consent. Their intention was to forbid relationships that might lead to corruption. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe and lawyer Joshua Matz have written that the meaning of “emoluments” as the framers intended included profits received in a business relationship.
President Trump has chosen to keep an ownership stake in his businesses, the scope of which we have no knowledge of as he has refused to disclose his tax returns. We believe that it is imperative for the public to know and understand his 564 financial positions in domestic and foreign companies, and his self-reported net worth of more than $10 billion. We know that state-owned enterprises in China and the United Arab Emirates are involved in his businesses, and that his business ties stretch to India, Turkey, the Philippines, and beyond. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan may also have ties to his businesses. These foreign entities are paying rents, licensing agreement payments, and issuing permits for developments -- effectively giving them a tool to influence our new President.
None of these potential conflicts can be verified until and unless we have disclosure from President Trump. Every major Presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, with the exception of President Gerald Ford who released a summary of tax data, has released his or her tax returns for public review – until now.
If the President does not either release his returns or consent to examination of such returns by this Committee, I urge you, as Chairman of the Committee and pursuant to Section 6103(f)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, to submit a written request to the Secretary of the Treasury for copies of the President’s federal tax returns by February 15, 2017. These returns and all accompanying return information should then be made available for examination by all Committee Members in a closed executive session. I further request that the Committee then vote in this closed session to submit the President’s federal tax returns to the House of Representatives—thereby, if successful, making them available to the public. This Committee followed a similar procedure to release confidential taxpayer information in the past during its exhaustive investigation of the treatment of certain tax-exempt organizations.
The Presidential campaign is over and the fear that a political opponent will try to use tax returns for electoral benefit is passed. President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments. The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement. I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to use that power to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump’s tax returns and moving towards a formal release of these documents to the public.
I look forward to your reply.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress
You may wish to follow Bill Pascrell on Twitter. I don't think this story will end soon.