Speed Reads

trump's taxes

Trump's handpicked IRS chief and IRS legal counsel both have ties to Trump businesses

President Trump personally lobbied Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to prioritize the confirmation of his nominated Internal Revenue Service chief counsel on Feb. 5, about the time House Democrats started talking seriously about telling the IRS to turn over Trump's tax returns, The New York Times reports. On Feb. 27, the Senate confirmed the nominee, California tax lawyer Michael Desmond, and now Desmond will be advising the IRS on how to respond to House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal's (D-Mass.) request for six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns.

As a private tax lawyer, Desmond had briefly advised the Trump Organization on what a spokesman called a "discrete" IRS reporting matter before Trump took office, Bloomberg reported last July, and he worked alongside two current tax counsels to the Trump Organization, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson.

Trump's IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, meanwhile, owns 50 percent shares of two one-bedroom residential rental units in the Waikiki Trump International Hotel and Tower in Hawaii, each worth $1.1 million, The Wall Street Journal reported last June, before Rettig's confirmation hearing. And as ProPublica and WNYC noted in October, Rettig — then a California tax attorney — argued in Forbes in February 2016 that Trump shouldn't release his tax returns, four days after Trump unveiled his dubious "I'm under audit" excuse for keeping his returns secret.

Trump has indicated he will fight the release of his returns to Neal's committee, but the 1924 law Neal cited "does not appear to give the White House any input into whether the IRS furnishes an individual's tax returns" and "does not appear to give the treasury secretary any legal mechanism to deny the request," The Washington Post reports. "In fact, the law was written in part to give Congress the ability to scrutinize the tax returns of executive branch officials to investigate conflicts of interest or other potential improprieties because of the Teapot Dome scandal in the early 1920s."