One day after the president's chief of staff vowed that Congressional Democrats would "never" get their hands on Trump's tax returns, state lawmakers in Albany have unveiled a workaround strategy to compel the New York version of the long-sought financial disclosures.
The plan hinges on the president's state tax returns, which are believed to contain much of the same insight into his sprawling, sketchy business empire as his federal filings. Under a new bill set to be introduced in the State Senate and Assembly on Monday, New York law would be amended to allow the release of any state tax return requested by three congressional committee leaders, assuming they serve a "specific and legitimate legislative purpose."
Although previous state-level legislation focused on the release of Trump's tax returns has stalled out, lawmakers in Albany say this iteration of the bill is "more tangible," and has support in both the State Senate and Assembly.
"It's up to New York to assist Congress with its oversight and responsibilities," State Sen. Brad Hoylman, the co-sponsor of the NY Truth Act, told Gothamist/WNYC. "It's important that the American people know if there are conflicts of interest in connection with any of our public officials, from Trump on down."
Indeed, in the aftermath of the election, roughly three-quarters of Americans said they wanted Trump to release his tax returns, as each president before him has done for the last forty years. That interest in the president's finances has only grown more urgent since his inauguration, as bombshell investigations have revealed Trump previously skipped out on hundreds of millions of dollars in owed taxes, and has continued to blur the line between his political and business life while in office.
But it remains unclear whether Congressional Democrats will be able to force the disclosures on the federal level. Earlier this month, the House Ways and Means Committee demanded the I.R.S hand over six years of the president's personal and business tax returns, citing a somewhat obscure tax provision that would seem to have been created for this exact purpose.
While the I.R.S. has not made any firm commitment yet, the reaction from the president's loyal foot soldiers in the Republican party has been about as expected, with the president's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney vowing the disclosure would "never" happen, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley deeming the request a "Nixonian" plot to "destroy" the president. (In the upside down logic of Trumpworld sycophancy, the fact that a president could be "destroyed" by the release of his own financial forms is apparently reason to keep those forms private).
Asked Monday if he was worried that the New York bill might be seen as a politicized piece of legislation — a "political stunt," as Mulvaney put it — Hoylman insisted this was not the case. "The current controversy around [Trump’s] returns is created by him and him alone,” he said. “This is a self-created hardship by the White House.”
Additional reporting by Katherine Fung.