April 15, 2019

The Trump administration is pushing back against House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal's (D-Mass.) request for President Trump's tax returns, arguing it serves no legitimate policy purpose. The 1924 law Neal is using doesn't require a policy rationale, though Neal has provided one: monitoring how the IRS audits presidents' tax returns. (The last time Congress checked on a sitting president's taxes, Richard Nixon turned to owe the IRS about $477,000.)

Most tax-law experts agree Neal is on firm legal ground in demanding Trump's tax returns to view in private ("executive") session. Before 1924, "the president had the sole and unconditional right to obtain and disclose anyone's tax return information," University of Virginia law professor George Yin tells Vox. But after the Teapot Dome scandal, Congress decided "it had to have the same access to tax information as the president," to investigate the president and the executive branch.

In fact, "the only thorny legal question arises if the full Ways and Means Committee, after debate and a vote in executive session, were to authorize the dissemination of Trump's tax return into the public record of the House," University of Southern California law professor Edward Kleinbard writes in the Los Angeles Times. Unlike the president, who still has the right to view any taxpayer's returns, "tax law expressly permits" the Ways and Means Committee to publicly release such returns, with proper justification. "Does the Ways and Means Committee have a solid reason to put Trump's tax returns in the public House record?" Kleinbard asks. If we get to that point, "it turns out that the Republicans have poisoned their own well."

The only precedent on such a move stems from 2014. Back then, congressional Republicans were on the warpath, insisting that the IRS improperly discriminated against conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. ... The committee, voting on party lines, released into the public record tax return information of more than 50 organizations, for absolutely no reason beyond their hope to embarrass Democrats. [Edward Kleinbard, Los Angeles Times]

So "if Trump challenges a public release of his tax information in court," Kleinbard says, "he should fear that Republicans' 2014 political power move could color the outcome." Peter Weber

2:30 p.m.

Mort Drucker, the beloved artist known for his work at MAD magazine, has died at 91.

Drucker died Wednesday at his home in New York, his friend John Reiner confirmed to The New York Times. Reiner told CNN's Jake Tapper his death was not thought to be related to COVID-19.

After joining MAD in 1956, Drucker's hilarious caricatures satirizing pop culture soon became iconic, and he illustrated more than half of the magazine's movie parodies from the 1960s through 2008, per the Times. In a 2000 interview with the Times, he noted, "I think I've drawn almost everyone in Hollywood."

Among Drucker's other notable work includes the poster for George Lucas' American Graffiti; according to The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas personally drove to Drucker's home on Long Island to convince him to draw it.

"The World has lost a not just an extraordinary talent but a shining example of kindness, humility and humor," the National Cartoonists Society said in a statement.

MAD fans on Thursday quickly began sharing their favorite cartoons from Drucker's legendary career, including his parodies of Jaws and Star Wars. "Many of his illustrations are as vivid in my mind as the movies and TV shows that inspired them," The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff wrote.

Reiner told CNN's Jake Tapper that Drucker's final words to him were, "I'm the luckiest man — I've had a wonderful life." Brendan Morrow

2:11 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump is officially donning a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the jury's still out on whether her husband will follow suit.

In a social media post Thursday, the first lady shared a photo of herself wearing what appears to be a surgical mask, touting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation "to wear cloth face coverings."

"Remember, this does NOT replace the importance of social distancing," she wrote. "It is recommended to keep us all safe."

Melania's masking comes one week after President Trump announced he would not be wearing a mask, despite the CDC-issued guidelines urging people to do so. At the time, Trump implied that it would be odd to be "sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk" while wearing a mask, so it's unclear how he's taking this news.

The photo of the first lady appears to show her wearing a surgical mask rather than the CDC-recommended "cloth face covering," the former of which is recommended only for use by health care professionals and medical first responders amid critical supply shortages.