Texas Republican Representative Kevin Brady—a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee—threatened if Congress made former Republican President Donald Trump's tax returns public, it could lead to the release of Supreme Court justices' tax returns as well.
Brady issued his warning ahead of a scheduled meeting for House Ways and Means Committee members, who'd been tasked with the decision of whether or not to publicly release Trump’s tax return information.
The panel ultimately voted to release the tax returns, which The Los Angeles Timesnoted is "an unprecedented move that marks the culmination of a years-long legal battle to disclose his financial records."
But Brady joined a chorus of Republicans who suggested the move was simply a partisan exercise that could theoretically be used as leverage against politicians, business executives, labor movement leaders and even private citizens.
You can hear what Brady said in the video below.
“Going forward, the majority chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have nearly unlimited power to target and make public the tax returns of private citizens."
"And not just private citizens: political enemies, business and labor leaders or even the returns of Supreme Court justices themselves. No party in Congress should have that power."
"No individuals in Congress could have that power. It’s the power to embarrass, to harass or destroy Americans through disclosure of their tax returns.”
For years, Trump resisted releasing his tax returns and even ordered his administration not to comply with House Democrats' requests.
Trump initially claimed he could not release his tax returns because he was under audit but Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations do not prevent someone from releasing their returns while under audit.
Last month, he lashed out at the right-wing majority he installed on the Supreme Court, calling them "nothing more than a political body" after the Court refused to block his tax returns from Congress.
The order—which noted no dissents—is the final say on a multiyear legal battle between Trump and the House Ways and Means Committee, which first sought Trump's tax returns in 2019 as part of a wider investigation into how the IRS conducts its routine presidential audits.
Brady's threat backfired spectacularly and many criticized his shoddy reasoning, arguing more transparency for public officials is ultimately a good thing for society at large.
In fact, the news the House Ways and Means Committee will release Trump's tax returns has been greeted with marked enthusiasm.
Although there is currently no law on the books requiring a sitting President to release their tax filings, doing so is usually seen as beneficial to their image. Every President from Richard Nixon onward—with the exception of Gerald Ford, who released a tax summary—has released their tax returns to the public.
Democratic President Joe Biden's administration has continued to respect presidential norms and earlier this year, he and his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, voluntarily released their 2021 federal income tax returns.
Trump's evasiveness about releasing his tax returns only fueled interest in their contents, and a team of New York Times reporters later secured a copy of his 2017 return, which showed he'd paid just $750 in federal taxes in both 2016 and 2017.