A spokeswoman for President Donald Trumps’ 2020 campaign claimed Monday that Congress members should not be able to access his tax returns because they have no legitimate reason to demand them. Her reasoning: the request does not include tax returns for other U.S. presidents.
“Ironically, the only person whose tax returns they’ve asked for — the only president — is Trump. So it’s a sham reasoning,” Trump’s 2020 campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News, referring to congressional requests for Trump’s tax documents, as part of its probe into the multiple ongoing investigations into the president’s company, campaign, and inaugural committee.
Any examination of how effectively Trump’s Internal Revenue Service is doing its job would focus on Trump’s returns out of necessity. But the other reason Neal did not need to request the tax returns for other previous modern presidents is simple: they all released their tax returns voluntarily.
According to the Tax History Project, President Barack Obama released his tax returns for every year between 2000 and 2015. President George W. Bush released his returns for 2000 through 2007. President Bill Clinton made public his returns from 1992 to 1999 (and then his wife, 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released their returns from 2000 to 2016).
President George H.W. Bush released his taxes for 1989, 1990, and 2000. President Ronald Reagan released his 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1987 returns. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon also released their taxes.
Trump promised as a 2016 presidential candidate that he would release his tax documents, but later refused to do so citing a “routine audit” by the IRS. Trump claimed last week that the audit is still ongoing, but has offered no evidence to back up that assertion.
McEnany’s comments come hours after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) explained on Fox News that he, as Senate Finance chair, and Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) have the legal right to see any American’s tax returns.
Section 6103(f)(1) of the U.S. tax code expressly gives chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation the right to receive any American’s tax returns upon request.
Speaking to Grassley’s earlier comments, McEnany claimed that Congress would lose if it tried to access Trump’s returns through legal means, because, “you have to have a legitimate legislative purpose when you request someone’s returns.”
“When asked what their purpose is, they say we want to make sure presidents are being audited correctly,” she said.
McEnany seemed to be referring specifically to a statement Neal wrote on April 3, in which he said the IRS “has a policy of auditing the tax returns of all sitting presidents and vice-presidents, yet little is known about the effectiveness of this program.”
“… [W]e must obtain President Trump’s tax returns and review whether the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities,” he said at the time. “The Committee has a duty to examine whether Congressional action may be needed to require such audits, and to oversee that they are conducted properly.”
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the section of tax code.