So much is going on! I wish I could cover all of it, but the Trump administration packs so much madness into each week, one barely knows when and where to begin. If you're desperate to stop the madness, you will probably want to check out this story
A New Jersey congressman says a rarely invoked 1924 law could be used to examine President Donald Trump's tax returns for possible conflicts of interest and Constitutional violations.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, has asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, to order the Treasury Department to provide tax returns to the committee.
After privately examining returns — Pascrell is seeking 10 years' worth — the committee could decide to share them with the full House, which would in effect make them public. The 1924 law gives congressional committees that set tax policy the power to examine tax returns. It was used in 1974 when Congress looked at President Richard Nixon's returns, and in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's handling of applications for nonprofit status.
Obviously, release of Trump's tax returns would kill his presidency. He's hiding something. We know this for a fact because we would already have
those returns if their release were not politically toxic to him.
I decided to look up the law which gives Congress this power. Turns out that we're not talking about some obscure piece of ancient legislation. We're talking about an extremely important section of the US code -- the section which codifies the privacy of your tax information, and the circumstances under which that privacy might be breached.
Here it is
. And yes, Pascrell cited
this very section in his letter to Committee Chairman Brady.
There is nothing iffy about the language: Congress really does have the authority to look at Trump's returns.
Any committee described in paragraph (1) or the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation shall have the authority, acting directly, or by or through such examiners or agents as the chairman of such committee or such chief of staff may designate or appoint, to inspect returns and return information at such time and in such manner as may be determined by such chairman or chief of staff. Any return or return information obtained by or on behalf of such committee pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be submitted by the committee to the Senate or the House of Representatives, or to both.
It goes on and on like that. Riveting stuff. But if you scroll down, you'll notice an even more unusual provision...
(5) Disclosure by whistleblower
Any person who otherwise has or had access to any return or return information under this section may disclose such return or return information to a committee referred to in paragraph (1) or any individual authorized to receive or inspect information under paragraph (4)(A) if such person believes such return or return information may relate to possible misconduct, maladministration, or taxpayer abuse.
Do you realize what this means? Right now, at this very moment, working within some bland and boring IRS building, there is a very small universe of potential whistleblowers -- maybe five or six people -- who have it within their power to bring down the Trump administration.
What stops them from doing so? Two possibilities:
1. Those five or six IRS employees honestly do not believe that Trump has done anything that constitutes misconduct, maladministration or taxpayer abuse.
2. Those five or six IRS employees fear losing their jobs and perhaps opening themselves up to a lawsuit. Even though the law was written to protect whistleblowers, I'm sure that Trump would file a civil suit -- and God only knows what Jeff Sessions would do.
Which seems more likely to you -- possibility 1 or possibility 2?
Wow. It turns out that the US tax Code is a lot more fun than most people think! Let's explore some more. As we scroll down, we find this nugget...
(g) Disclosure to President and certain other persons
(1) In general Upon written request by the President, signed by him personally, the Secretary shall furnish to the President, or to such employee or employees of the White House Office as the President may designate by name in such request, a return or return information with respect to any taxpayer named in such request. Any such request shall state—
(A) the name and address of the taxpayer whose return or return information is to be disclosed,
(B) the kind of return or return information which is to be disclosed,
(C) the taxable period or periods covered by such return or return information, and
(D) the specific reason why the inspection or disclosure is requested.
That's right, boys and girls: Trump has the legal right to ask to see your
tax returns, as long as he signs his name to the order, and as long as he states his reasons. I see nothing in the law that stipulates that his reasons must be good ones. I also see no oversight. None whatsoever. Nothing stops the president, any president, from abusing this provision of the US tax code. Nothing forces the president to disclose his snoopiness to Congress.
And that's when a strange thought hit me: Didn't Barack Obama have this same power?
Yes. Yes he did.
So why didn't he demand to see Donald Trump's taxes during the campaign?
And that's when an even stranger thought hit me: Perhaps he did.