New York lawmakers take steps to uncover Trump's tax returns

Trump broke with precedent when he chose not to release any returns.

New York -- Lawmakers in New York have decided to directly take on President Trump and his tax returns.

New York state senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, introduced a bill on Monday that would authorize the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance to share state tax return information with a requesting congressional committee. Current New York law generally prohibits the release of private tax information.

Trump’s name is not specifically mentioned in the bill or the accompanying public statements, but Hoylman said in a press release that the proposed legislation would “help ensure Congress can’t be blocked in their attempts to hold even the highest elected officials in the land accountable to the American people.”

To address concerns that the bill would invite political fishing expeditions or abuse of power, Hoylman noted that the proposed law still requires congressional tax committees to have a specific and legitimate purpose to request the returns. It also gives state officials the discretion to deny congressional requests.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating Trump’s business dealings and pursuing a lawsuit against Trump’s shuttered charitable foundation, welcomes the bill, according to a spokesperson for her office.

“Attorney General James supports the goals of this legislation and efforts for greater transparency and accountability. She has personally abided by this principle, voluntarily releasing years of her own tax returns,” the spokesperson said.

Last month, James’ office issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four Trump Organization and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills.

Responding to the last week’s letter by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for Trump’s federal returns, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Democrats will “never” see them.

"That is not going to happen, and they know it," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday," calling Neal’s efforts a “political stunt.”

Neal’s authority to ask for federal tax information stems from an obscure 1924 statute, Section 6103(f) of the federal tax code, that allows certain members of Congress to examine an individual’s tax information in a closed session if they have a legitimate legislative reason to do so.

“If the IRS acquiesces to Chairman Neal's request, it would set a dangerous precedent," Trump’s personal lawyer, William Consovoy, said in a letter to Treasury Department General Counsel Brent McIntosh on Friday. "Once this Pandora's box is opened, the ensuing tit-for-tat will do lasting damage to our nation."

Trump broke with nearly four decades of precedent when he chose not to release any tax returns. He has justified his refusal by repeatedly claiming that his taxes are under “continuous audit,” an assertion the IRS will not confirm or deny. IRS officials have said taxpayers under audit are free to release their returns.

"I'm under audit. When you're under audit you don't do it," Trump reiterated on Friday while visiting the U.S.-Mexico border.