To Help Congress Get Trump's Tax Returns, New York Senate Approves Bill

by | May 9, 2019 AT 8:24 AM
The U.S. Capitol (FlickrCC/Geoff Livingston)

By Yancey Roy

The New York State Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would allow Congress to get President Donald Trump's state tax returns, potentially giving Democrats a way around the White House.

The Democratic-led Senate approved the bill, 39-22, largely along party lines. It now goes to the overwhelmingly Democratic state Assembly, which plans to discuss the measure on Monday.

Just moments prior, the Senate passed a separate measure that it said would allow prosecutors to pursue state criminal charges against associates of a president who have received a pardon for similar federal charges. The bill would not apply retroactively to anyone who has already pleaded guilty, such as Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager.

Republicans in Albany said the two measures were "blatant political acts" and an attempt to "delegitimize" Trump's presidency.

The income tax bill would authorize the state Tax Department to release a president's New York returns to one of three congressional committees, upon request: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Just days ago, the Trump administration said it wouldn't provide the president's tax returns as requested by the House Ways and Means Committee. Taking action in Albany, Democrats said the bill was about ensuring oversight and not allowing Trump to ignore a "coequal branch of government."

"It is out of deep concern of what's happening in Washington -- and I don't say that lightly -- that we are here today," Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the sponsor of the bill, said during the Senate debate. "The [Trump] administration has stonewalled a coequal branch of government. If they [Congress] cannot do it, New York will."

New York is Trump's home and the base for many of his businesses, including the Trump Organization and the now-defunct Trump Foundation. His state tax returns are likely to mirror his federal returns.

"We want to send a message that no one is above the law. Not the president, or anyone else, is above the law," added Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).

Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and fellow Republicans condemned the bill as a "blatant political act."

"This should scare the hell out of the average person who lives in New York," Flanagan said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could support the legislation "as long as it applies to everybody" and not just Trump, an aide said earlier this month.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, applauded the state Senate.

"This bill is a workaround to a White House that continues to obstruct and stonewall the legitimate oversight work of Congress," Nadler said in a statement. "The state return should generally match the federal return and obtaining it from New York State will enable us in Congress to perform our oversight function and maintain the rule of law."

The second bill, Democrats said, was intended to prevent the abuse of presidential pardon power and close a "double jeopardy loophole." Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said it would apply only to people who are related to a president or worked for him previously. He said it cannot apply retroactively to, say, individuals who have been convicted or pleaded guilty as part of the Russian election interference probe.

Kaminsky said 24 other states have such statutes and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld states'  ability to pursue their own cases against crimes allegedly committed within their borders.

Republicans called it "good politics for some people, but bad public policy."

"You are aiming for the President, but there is going to be a lot of collateral damage," Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) said.

"If this becomes law, you all will rue the day you passed this in New York State," Sen. Tom O'Mara (R-Elmira) added.

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