House Democrats petition for Trump's tax returns

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. March 20, 2017. 

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX31X6Z

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, joined by other members of the House Democratic caucus, announced a discharge petition requiring the release of President Trump’s tax returns. 

Hoping to garner signatures from both sides of the aisle, the petition calls for more transparency regarding the President’s taxes an issue of “national security,” in the hopes that the returns may disclose any of Mr. Trump’s financial interests abroad.

“It’s not a right to privacy that the president has,” Pelosi said, referring to Mr. Trump’s undisclosed tax records. “He’s the president of the United States.”

“There’s question about a Russian connection -- politically, personally, financially -- to the president. There’s concerns about recent actions by the Chinese government in relationship to the Trump organization,” she added.

Although it is not the law for the president to release his tax returns, it is a long-held tradition for those in office. Mr. Trump’s refusal to comply with this precedent so far makes him the first president since Gerald Ford to not release his tax returns, according to the Tax History Project.

“If they have nothing to fear, then what are they afraid of?” Pelosi queried.

Pelosi then introduced Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who in June 2016 introduced the “Presidential Tax Transparency Act,” which would make the disclosure of federal tax returns compulsory for any presidential nominee of a major political party. If the discharge petition receives a majority of House signatures (an unlikely reality in a Republican controlled Congress), it will force a floor vote on the bill.

“Today the American people see that really nothing is sacred any longer,” Eshoo said. “The presidency of the United States is not being honored, because the American people are not being honored,” she later added.

In January 2017, White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway said that Mr. Trump is “not going to release his tax returns” and that “Most Americans are — are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”

A poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in January found that 74 percent of Americans still believe that Mr. Trump should release his tax records, with 40 percent of those polled saying they care “a lot” about this information.

House Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., added, “This is not about the law, it’s about custom and practice. It’s a settled tradition.”