A congressional hearing sets the stage for Congress to request Trump's tax returns, and potentially expose wrongdoing and foreign influence.

A Thursday hearing sets the stage for Congress to request Trump’s tax returns, and potentially expose wrongdoing and foreign influence.

The Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee is hosting a panel of experts to discuss tax law, including provisions in H.R. 1 that would require Trump to release 10 years of tax returns.

The Washington Post describes the hearing as a “crucial first step” toward the goal of obtaining Trump’s taxes. Proponents of the provisions say the law is necessary for Congress to conduct proper oversight, as required by the constitution.

The leaders of the organization Americans for Tax Fairness argue that Trump’s tax returns could show anything from Trump’s using fraud to cheat on his taxes, to undue foreign influence from Russia.

Even without passing H.R. 1, House Democrats can — and should — obtain Trump’s tax returns. As CNN’s John Berman explains, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, can demand Trump’s tax returns directly from the Treasury Department.

“I don’t think there’s ambiguity in the law there. Ways and Means can ask for an get the returns,” Berman said.

While the law is clear, the new Democratic majority is not rushing the process. “The House is going to proceed with restraint, with regular order, and that’s why hearings will take place,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), a member of the House leadership team, said. He added that Democrats will not overstep or over-politicize their constitutional duties.

In his conversation with CNN’s Berman, investigative journalist David Cay Johnson praised Chairman Neal’s methodical approach as “very smart.” Those comments are echoed by Ways and Means committee member Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who told Politico, “The law is on our side. We need patience.” Pascrell added that Neal is likely to request Trump’s tax returns from Treasury sometime in the next three months.

Some progressive members of Congress are encouraging Neal to act sooner rather than later, as Trump is expected to fight the effort in court. Trump’s legal team is already gearing up to keep his taxes hidden from public view, which would likely lead to a Supreme Court showdown.

Trump’s fear was evident at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, when he called for Congress to give up their investigations.

But Democrats have refused to back down. This hearing is the first step of shining a spotlight on years, possibly decades, of Trump’s corruption.

Published with permission of The American Independent.