There have been a lot of comparisons between President Donald Trump and President Richard Nixon, but Warren G. Harding’s 1920s administration — and the Teapot Dome scandal that tainted his presidency — may actually be a better guide to what’s going on right now. The scandal also helps address the question of whether Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal (D-MA) can lawfully request Trump’s tax returns from the IRS.
This request takes on extra urgency in light of the news that Trump’s sister Judge Maryanne Trump Barry recently retired from the federal bench, thereby ending an inquiry into her taxes. Both siblings stand accused by the New York Times of allegedly violating tax laws for years.
On April 3, Chairman Neal asked the IRS to provide Trump’s personal tax returns and the tax returns of several of his business entities. As the debate unfolds over whether Congress has the authority to obtain the president’s tax returns, it’s worth considering two outcomes of Teapot Dome: (1) Congress has the authority to obtain the president’s tax returns and (2) Congress can compel testimony from hostile witnesses.
Chairman Neal’s request for Trump’s taxes came after the president’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress on February 27 that as a businessman, Trump allegedly inflated the value of assets to apply for bank loans and deflated the same assets to avoid paying taxes.
In his testimony before Congress on April 9, a visibly shaking IRS Commissioner Charles Rettigbobbed and weaved around questions of how his agency has handled Congress’ request for the president’s tax returns. Rettig also testified that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been involved in the debate over releasing the president’s tax returns. On April 13, Neal sent a second letter reiterating his demand and setting April 23, 2019 as the…