WASHINGTON -- While President Donald Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns to the American public, he can't deny a request from Congress.
So says Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th Dist.), the only New Jersey member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
In a letter to committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Trump asked him to formally request that the U.S. Treasury Department turn over 10 years of Trump's tax returns, and let the lawmakers decide whether to make them public.
"President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments," Pascrell said. "The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement. I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to use that power to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump's tax returns."
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Trump broke with decades of precedent and refused during the campaign to release his returns, which would show the extent of his investments and his charitable giving.
In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month, 53 percent said Trump should release his income tax returns and only 30 percent said it was OK that he would not.
While turning over control of his businesses to his sons, Trump said he would keep ownership of them, an arrangement that the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said "does not comport with the tradition of our Presidents over the past 40 years."
Pascrell said that Congress needs the returns to be able to see whether there are any conflicts of interest between White House actions and Trump's businesses.
For example, Trump's executive order banning travel from seven Muslim nations excludes those countries where his companies have investments.
"President Trump has chosen to keep an ownership stake in his businesses, the scope of which we have no knowledge of as he has refused to disclose his tax returns," Pascrell said. "None of these potential conflicts can be verified until and unless we have disclosure from President Trump."
Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook
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