Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Senior Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) speak during a business meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill December 20, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer | News from Getty Images | Getty Images
The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday night to release redacted versions of federal income tax returns filed by former President Donald Trump when he ran for and served in the White House.
It will take “a couple of days” to remove some sensitive information before the returns from Trump and those from eight Trump-affiliated companies are released, said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, of D-Mass.
“But we think it’s only days,” Neal said.
The records set for release include the notes of the IRS audits of the tax returns.
A related 29-page report on Trump’s taxes was released later Tuesday night.
The 24:16 vote by the Democrat-controlled committee to authorize the release of the statements and report was along the party line. Prior to the vote, the panel spent more than four hours in executive session discussing whether to release the tax returns and how that release should be.
The committee obtained the tax filings – which stretch from 2015 to 2020 – from the Internal Revenue Service last month after a three-year court case to obtain them over Trump’s objections.
Neal previously said the records would be used to evaluate how the Internal Revenue Service reviews incumbent presidents’ tax returns each year.
Trump has broken decades of political precedent by refusing to release his tax returns to the public as a candidate and as president.
The New York Times reported in 2020 that the billionaire real estate businessman paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and the same tiny amount the following year. Trump paid no income tax at all for 11 of the 18 years the Times investigated after receiving his tax return data.
Tuesday’s vote was the latest in a series of negative developments for Trump, who announced last month that he will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
On Monday, a select committee of the House of Representatives voted unanimously to refer Trump to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation and possible prosecution for attempting to reverse his 2020 election defeat by President Joe Biden, including putting pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence was one to deny certification to several states’ electoral college boards.
After Tuesday’s vote, Neal said lawmakers have two days to submit supplemental information or objections to the panel’s report on returns.
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“After a long process, it wasn’t about punishment, it wasn’t about being malicious, and there were no leaks from the committee,” Neal said. “We strictly obeyed the law.”
The chair also said that “committee staff have the authority to make technical corrections to the report and redact sensitive personal data such as social security numbers, street addresses, personal identification numbers and banking information.”
Neal advised members of Congress to abide by the First Amendment’s speech and debate clause when discussing Trump’s return with the public.
This clause protects the legislature from being sued or arrested for speaking out in legislative activity, but not necessarily in political activity.
“Today, our committee voted to keep the sunlight and democracy alive,” Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the panel’s oversight subcommittee, said in a statement.
“For six long years we have fought to get these documents released because Americans deserve to know if their chief executive is compromised,” Neal said. “But today’s victory is greater than one corrupt man or one party. This is a triumph for [the] idea that no one is above the law.”
A police escort turned over documents believed to be Trump’s tax returns just before the 3 p.m. hearing began
The senior Republican member of the committee, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, warned against releasing the statements ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
“Let me be clear, our concern is not whether the President should have released his tax returns as usual, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns,” Brady told reporters. “That’s for the IRS and the taxpayer to determine.”
“Our concern is that this committee action will set a terrible precedent, unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that will reach far beyond the former president and undo decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reforms.” said Brady .
Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing on former President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Tuesday, December 20, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Andreas Harnik | AP
The committee’s first attempt to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS was denied in 2019 by the Treasury Department, then headed by Trump’s appointee Steven Mnuchin. The Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, said there was no legitimate legal basis for the request.
The Treasury Department dropped its opposition to publishing yields after Biden, a Democrat, took office.
Trump sued to prevent her release.
But he lost those efforts at both the federal district court level and the appellate court level. Last month, the Supreme Court, from which it appointed three judges, rejected its latest attempt to prevent the IRS from giving the Ways and Means Committee its tax records.
Tuesday’s Ways and Means Committee hearing comes less than a month before Republicans take control of the House. GOP lawmakers are expected to quash any further investigation by the committee into Trump’s tax returns.
“What was clear today is that the public disclosure of President Trump’s private tax returns was unrelated to the stated purpose of reviewing the IRS presidential review process,” Brady said after the vote.