ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill into law Monday that will allow congressional committees to access President Donald Trump’s New York State tax returns, potentially giving Democrats a way around the White House’s refusal to make available the president’s federal returns.
However, with a lawsuit underway over Trump’s federal returns, it is not certain House Democrats will avail themselves of the president’s state returns.
Cuomo, a Democrat who has feuded with Trump, referenced the standoff in Washington when he said the state action will “ensure that no one is above the law.”
The income-tax bill would authorize the New York Tax Department to release New York returns to one of three congressional committees upon request: the House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. The state Legislature approved the bill earlier this year, largely along party lines.
"By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law,” the governor said.
The White House Press Office did not immediately return a request for comment. Trump's personal attorney William Consovoy, who is based in Washington D.C., also did not immediately return an email seeking comment, and the Treasury Department, which has blocked previous congressional attempts to access the President's tax returns, did not immediately respond to an email inquiry.
Last week, House Democrats sued the Internal Revenue Service and the federal Treasury Department for ignoring a subpoena and refusing to turn over Trump’s federal returns. In the lawsuit, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) called the refusal an “extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress.”
A Trump lawyer called the lawsuit harassment and vowed to fight it in court.
Neal, so far, has refused to ask New York for Trump’s state tax returns, reportedly in part because of how it could impact the federal lawsuit. Following Cuomo's action, the progressive group Stand Up America urged the Massachusetts congressman to act now instead of awaiting the lawsuit's outcome, saying "any further delay is an injustice to the American people who deserve transparency about Trump’s foreign entanglements and massive conflicts of interest.”
New York Democrats said the new state law offered a way around a "constitutional crisis" — now, and, potentially, in the future.
"As the home state of Donald Trump, New York has a special role to play to help avoid a constitutional crisis between the president and Congress in their effort to obtain his tax returns," State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), sponsor of the bill, said. "But this legislation is bigger than one person or one president. Moving forward, this new law helps Congress perform one of its most important responsibilities: oversight of the Office of the President."
In contrast, the chairman of the Republican Party in New York — a Trump ally — called the new law "purely political" and "theater."
"This is nothing more than an attempt by this governor to attack our president," GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy told reporters at an Albany news conference.
When it was pointed out the tax bill applies to other political figures at federal, state and local levels, Langworthy added: "This is, make no mistake, aimed directly at the president."
With Laura Figueroa Hernandez