- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Two senior House Democrats announced legislation Wednesday to force a sitting president to release his tax returns to the public, in a move aimed squarely at President Trump.

Reps. Anna Eshoo and Bill Pascrell Jr. said Mr. Trump broke with decades of tradition when he refused during the campaign, and still as president, to release his tax returns.

They said their legislation will make the tradition a law.

“The American people expect those who seek or hold the highest office in the land to be open and transparent about their tax returns,” Ms. Eshoo said.

The new bill would require a sitting president or vice president and the nominees for major political parties during a presidential campaign to release their most recent 10 years’ returns.

A similar bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, would require the release of three years of returns.

It’s doubtful the legislation will become law.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he won’t cooperate on “political fishing expeditions.”

“I will not go along with efforts to weaponize the authority of tax-writing committees to access tax returns for political purposes,” the Iowa Republican said in a floor speech late last year laying out his priorities.

Tax returns are considered exceptionally personal information and federal law imposes penalties for unauthorized release — though individuals are free to divulge their information as they want.

Mr. Trump became the first major party presidential nominee since Watergate to refuse that disclosure.

He says he’s facing IRS audits and says he doesn’t want to make the returns public until those are completed.

House Democrats have signaled they may try to use another tool to get a look at his returns. A section of federal law allows the tax-law committees to obtain someone’s returns and review them in private.

Mr. Grassley was critical of such a move, saying it would be “unprecedented.”

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