GOP tax writers come to Trump's defense on tax returns

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House Republican tax writers on Friday mounted a vigorous defense of President Donald Trump’s personal tax situation, nearly a week after a news report that he paid little or no federal income taxes for many years.

After The New York Times published the report on Sunday, Republicans were mostly reticent on the issue. On Tuesday, two leading GOP members of the Ways and Means Committee, Reps. Kevin Brady of Texas and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, demanded the IRS and Justice Department investigate how the newspaper obtained Trump’s confidential tax data, but they didn’t address the substance of the report.

Democrats, meanwhile, harshly criticized Trump and renewed their calls for him to voluntarily release his tax returns.

Details of the returns The Times obtained haven’t been verified, House Ways and Means Committee Republicans said in their lengthy retort Friday to a range of claims on the records.

The article didn’t accuse Trump of committing a crime, the lawmakers said, which repeated statements from Trump’s company and White House officials that described the report as inaccurate and wrong.

“There’s absolutely no independent confirmation the New York Times story is true,” the Ways and Means Republicans wrote.

Trying to poke holes: The lawmakers repeated Trump’s defense that he has paid millions of dollars in taxes, listing other types of taxes his business would have paid, in addition to defending tax breaks cited in the article as routine or regularly available during economic downturns.

They also pointed out that Trump has voluntarily transferred his salary as president since taking office to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Veterans Administration, totaling almost $1.4 million.

The ongoing IRS audit of a nearly $73 million tax refund to Trump in 2010 shows the agency’s enforcement operation is carrying out its legal requirements to review large refunds, the Republicans said.

Turning the tables: They also included their own accusations, charging that the disclosure of Trump’s information is a “potential illegal release of private tax returns” that “should trouble every American.” They said that anyone who “willfully prints or publishes unauthorized tax returns or return information that originated from the IRS” could face criminal liability.

The Times has said its reporters legally obtained the information.

Hunt for a leaker: Brady, who is the top Ways and Means Republican, and Kelly, the top Republican on its Oversight Subcommittee, have asked the Treasury and Justice departments to investigate the source of the release, the GOP statement said, and to pursue prosecution if privacy laws were broken.

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