- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

President Trump, who once said not paying taxes “makes me smart,” has repeatedly avoided releasing his tax returns to the prying eyes of the media and political opponents who say he’s hiding something.

Ever since Mr. Trump announced he was running for president in June 2015, he has fended off demands for his tax returns by protesting that he is perpetually under audit by the IRS.

That was Mr. Trump’s answer again this week when confronted with a new request by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, who want to see six years of his returns, 2013-2018.

“They’ll speak to my lawyers, they’ll speak to the attorney general,” Mr. Trump said of the Democrats.

Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Democrat who has refused to release his own tax returns, said the panel wants to examine whether the IRS is fully auditing presidential returns. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and an ally of the White House, said Thursday that House Democrats are simply trying “to collect as much information about this president’s finances as they can get their hands on.”

“It’s motivated by Democrats’ intense dislike for this president,” Mr. Grassley said. “It’s motivated by their frustration over losing an election that they thought they’d easily win. It’s motivated by their desire to use all of the resources at their disposal to find something — anything — to bring this president down.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Congress has the legal authority under Section 6103 of the U.S. Tax Code to get the president’s tax returns.

“Show us the Mueller report, show us the tax returns,” Mrs. Pelosi said, slapping her hand on a podium. “We’re not walking away just because you say ‘no’ the first time.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “doesn’t have any intention of releasing those returns” because of an ongoing audit.

The IRS says nothing prevents an individual from releasing his tax returns.

Mr. Trump’s refusal to show his tax returns is a break with tradition from other presidents and presidential candidates. But amid the president’s stonewalling, some details of his record as a taxpayer have leaked out over the years.

In September 2016, for example, a still-unidentified insider mailed three pages of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns to The New York Times in the heat of his campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Those documents showed that Mr. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a deduction so large that analysts said it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.

At a presidential debate that fall, Mrs. Clinton suggested that Mr. Trump was refusing to release his tax returns so voters would not know “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.” She noted that he had once revealed to casino regulators that he paid no federal income taxes in the late 1970s, prompting Mr. Trump to retort on the debate stage, “That makes me smart.”

Two years ago, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow got a hold of two pages of Mr. Trump’s tax forms from 2005 showing that he had income of $150 million. He wrote off more than $100 million in business losses, reducing his federal income taxes that year to $38 million, an effective rate of 25 percent.

Most of the federal taxes that Mr. Trump paid that year came under the Alternative Minimum Tax, which the president wants to abolish.

Mr. Grassley said if Democrats want to know if the IRS is auditing presidents thoroughly, they could ask the Treasury Department’s inspector general to conduct a review.

He criticized their argument that they are trying to conduct legitimate oversight.

“When you strip out all their pretexts, and when you strip out their circular logic, all you have are Democrats who want to go after the president any way they can,” Mr. Grassley said. “They dislike him with a passion, and they want his tax returns to destroy him. That’s all this is about, and it’s Nixonian to the core.”

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