Committee chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) talk during a business meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill on December 20, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday evening to publicly release redacted versions of federal income tax returns filed by former President Donald Trump when he was running for and serving in the White House.
It will take “a few days” to remove some sensitive information before the release of Trump’s returns and those of eight affiliated Trump businesses, said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass, the committee’s chairman.
“But we believe that it’s only days,” Neal said.
The records set for release include the notes of IRS audits of the returns.
A related 29-page report on Trump’s taxes was released later Tuesday evening.
The 24-16 vote by the Democratic-controlled Committee approving the release of the returns and report was along party lines. Before the vote, the panel spent more than four hours in the executive session discussing whether to make public the tax returns, and the manner of that release.
The committee received the tax records — which span from 2015 through 2020 — last month from the Internal Revenue Service after a three-year court battle to obtain them over Trump’s objections.
Neal previously said the records would be used to evaluate how the Internal Revenue Service audits the tax returns of sitting presidents each year.
Trump broke 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 had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and that same tiny amount the following year. Trump paid no income tax at all in 11 out of the 18 years that the Times examined after obtaining his tax-return data.
Tuesday’s vote was the latest in a series of negative developments for Trump, who last month announced he will seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
On Monday, a select House committee voted unanimously to refer Trump for criminal investigation and possible prosecution to the Department of Justice for his effort to reverse his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, which included pressing then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify several states’ Electoral College slate.
After Tuesday’s vote, Neal said that lawmakers will have two days to file supplementary information or objections to the panel’s report on the returns.
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“After a long process, this was not about being punitive, this was not about being malicious, and there were no leaks from the committee,” Neal said. “We adhered carefully to the law.”
The chairman also said that committee “staff is authorized to make technical corrections to the report and to redact sensitive personal identifiable information, such as social security numbers, street addresses, personal identification numbers and banking information.”
Neal advised members of Congress to adhere to the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment in discussing Trump’s returns with the public.
That clause protects lawmakers from being sued or arrested for what they say during legislative activities, but not necessarily political ones.
“Today our committee voted to uphold sunlight and democracy,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the panel’s Subcommittee on Oversight, in a statement.
“For six long years we fought to release these documents because Americans deserve to know if their chief executive is compromised,” Neal said. “But today’s victory is bigger than one crooked man or party. This is a triumph for [the] idea that no one person is above the law.”
A police escort delivered documents that were presumed to be Trump’s tax returns shortly before the hearing began at 3 pm
The committee’s ranking Republican member, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, warned against releasing the returns before Tuesday’s hearing.
“Let me be clear, our concern is not whether the president should have made his tax returns public as has been tradition, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns,” Brady told reporters. “That is for the IRS and the taxpayer to determine.”
“Our concern is that if taken, this committee action will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reforms,” Brady said .
Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022.
Andrew Harnik | AP
The committee’s first attempt to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS was rejected in 2019 by the Treasury Department, which at the time was led by Trump appointee Steven Mnuchin. The Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, said there was no legitimate legislative basis for the request.
Treasury dropped its opposition to releasing the returns after Biden, a Democrat, took office.
Trump sued to block their release.
But he lost that effort at both the federal district court and appeals court levels. Last month, the Supreme Court, three of whose justices he appointed, rejected his last-ditch bid to prevent the IRS from giving the Ways and Means Committee his tax records.
Tuesday’s hearing by the Ways and Means Committee comes less than a month before Republicans are set to take majority control of the House of Representatives. GOP lawmakers are expected to quash any further inquiry by the committee into Trump’s tax returns.
“What was clear today is that public disclosure of President Trump’s private tax returns has nothing to do with the stated purpose of reviewing the IRS presidential audit process,” Brady said after the vote.
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