House Democrats pressure Trump to release tax returns

© Reuters. United States President Donald Trump speaks at the 2017 National Legislative Conference of Construction Unions of North America in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives stepped up their efforts to force the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, calling it a critical transparency and national security issue.

House Democrats said they would use parliamentary procedure to file a petition designed to force a vote on legislation that requires US presidents to disclose multiple years of federal income tax returns.

Representatives for the White House and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump, a Republican and New Yorker real estate developer who touted his business acumen in the 2016 presidential campaign, defied decades of candidate precedent when he refused to release his tax returns, saying they were being audited. The Internal Revenue Service says that audits are not an obstacle to the publication of tax returns.

Democrats, in order for their so-called discharge petition to move forward, would need to obtain signatures of support from a majority of the 435 lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House.

Such a move could be a long shot given that only two Republicans, Representatives Mark Sanford and Justin Amash, have signed on to sponsor the proposed bill that would later be put to a vote.

The petition is the latest effort by Democrats on the issue, as only two glimpses of Trump’s taxes have appeared in media reports on his 1995 and 2005 filings.

Democrats say Trump’s taxes are a national security issue given Congressional investigations into possible ties between Russia and his campaign. They also cite concerns about potential conflicts of interest with their private global businesses.

“How do we know when you make political decisions or, you know, trade agreements … with foreign countries that you are looking out for the American people and not lining your pockets?” Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell told reporters.

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