March 6, 2019 / 1:21 AM / 2 months ago

U.S. House Democrat predicts request for Trump tax returns in two weeks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives tax committee said on Tuesday that he believed his panel would ask for President Donald Trump’s tax returns in as little as two weeks.

“My prediction would be the next couple of weeks,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, who has led efforts on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee to seek Trump’s returns over the past two years.

“That’s my gut feeling. I told you four weeks ago that it would be a month. Now it’s two weeks,” he told reporters.

Pascrell made it clear he had not been given a timeline by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who is the only House lawmaker authorized by law to request Trump’s returns from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The administration is widely expected to refuse such a request.

Neal is under pressure to act from some Democratic lawmakers and outside groups. He has held his fire while pursuing other legislative priorities and crafting a legal argument that Democrats hope can weather an expected court battle with the administration.

“When I’m asked, I give you what my thoughts are,” Pascrell said. He declined to say whether he had seen any draft requests for Trump’s returns, calling the effort “a work in progress.”

Trump defied decades of precedent as a presidential candidate by refusing to release the tax documents and has continued to keep them under wraps as president, saying his returns were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

But Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen whetted Democrats’ interest in obtaining the documents last week, when he testified before the House Oversight Committee that Trump avoided releasing his returns for fear he would be audited and penalized by tax authorities.

Democrats hope that obtaining the returns will allow them to identify any conflicts of interest posed by Trump’s global business empire.

But Republicans oppose the effort, saying such a move would set a dangerous precedent by turning the confidential tax documents of a U.S. citizen into a political weapon.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney

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