House Democrats turn focus to tax returns - and Trump's loom largest

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Lawmakers face a February 15 deadline when large portions of the government will shutdown unless Congress and Trump act first.

The effort is being met with outright hostility from Republicans and skepticism even within Democratic ranks.

After Trump boldly advised Congress not to pursue "ridiculous partisan investigations" during his State of the Union address Tuesday, Rep. Bill Pascrell, a senior member of the Ways and Means committee, stressed that the US has a "checks and balances government".

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., chairman of the oversight subcommittee, said the American public is intensely interested in the subject. Trump, unlike some of his predecessors, hasn't divested from his real estate and licensing business since becoming president.

But she warned that the move can not be made in haste.

U.S. House Democrats and Republicans on Thursday clashed with each other over a bid to release President Donald Trump's tax returns.

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday voted to send a number of witness transcripts from its own investigation into Russia-related election wrongdoing to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump refused to release his returns during the 2016 campaign, breaking with a decades-long tradition by presidential contenders. Earlier in the day, Trump had said the House's multiplying inquiries into him, his business and his administration constituted "presidential harassment".

Under the federal tax code, the Hill explained, "the chairmen of Congress's tax committees can request tax returns from Treasury and review them in a closed session. A continuation of Witch Hunt!" Democrats are trying to limit the Trump administration's ability to detain border crossers, preferring alternatives such as ankle bracelets.

Representative John Lewis, Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, drew a parallel with the Watergate era, citing an IRS audit of former President Richard Nixon that congressional investigators later discovered had missed almost $480,000 in owed taxes and interest.

Two people familiar with the talks said the understanding among Republicans is that the deal would offer around $2 billion for border barriers. The organization funded by billionaire investor and Democratic activist Tom Steyer has run a TV ad in Neal's home district calling on him to subpoena Trump's tax records, as a prelude to starting impeachment proceedings. Steyer is also spending $109,000 on additional advertisements demanding that Democrats request Trump's tax returns.

"Because if Democrats or any party can abuse their power to rummage through the tax returns of the president, what will stop them from abusing that power in the future frankly to target any individual American that they see as a political enemy?"

The ensuing legal battle threatens to derail the rest of the Ways and Means Committee's other priorities, including prescription drug price reductions, overhauling retirement plans and rolling back portions of the GOP tax bill.

"That pertains to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else", Schiff told reporters following the House Intelligence Committee's first meeting in the new Congress, according to CNN. The negotiations aren't likely to veer very far from that figure, aides involved in the talks said, and newly empowered House Democrats were looking to restrict use of the money.

About 60 percent of voters in an ABC News/Washington Post poll last month said that House Democrats should obtain and release the tax returns.

Rep Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., said Thursday that "the level of disclosure varies widely" among the presidents from Ford to Obama who did release their returns. He added, "This should be about protecting the rights of every private taxpayer".

In January, Neal told CNN that he is "judiciously" pursuing Trump's tax returns.

The negotiations came as a bipartisan committee seeks to finalize a deal that could satisfy Trump's demands for border wall funding, while keeping the government open.

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