Republicans beg Democrat to drop quest for Trump tax returns

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee asked the new Democratic chairman to drop the quest to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns from the Treasury Department.

In a letter to Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Thursday, Republican Reps. Kevin Brady and Mike Kelly pleaded with the chairman to not pursue Trump's tax returns, citing privacy concerns and what they characterized as an abuse of authority.

"Some of the proposals our Committee is considering this week leave us deeply concerned. We believe all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of the personal information found in their tax returns," the letter read. "This isn't about the tax returns of the presidents and vice-presidents but about making sure Congress does not abuse its authority. This is about protecting the private tax returns of every American."

Brady, the House Ways and Means Committee's ranking Republican, and Kelly, the top Republican on the subcommittee on oversight, added that Democrats "appear willing to sacrifice this critical protection for political gain" and that revealing the president's tax returns would set a "dangerous precedent."

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Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, U.S., REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators protest in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Demonstrators protest in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
UNITED STATES - APRIL 15: Buddhist monk Jampal Rowe of Poolesville, Md., attends the Tax March rally on the west lawn of the Capitol to call on President Trump to release his tax returns, April 15, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors walk by the Trump hotel during the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors gather in Center City Philadelphia, PA, ahead of the April 15 Tax Day March. Around the nation thousands are expected to participate in similar protests against the Trump-administration. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Protestor holds a sign during a Tax Day protest rally and march in Center City Philadelphia, on April 15, 2017. Around the nation thousands are expected to participate in similar protests against the Trump-administration. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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"When we start making exceptions for one taxpayer, it begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of alltaxpayers," they wrote. "This is a risk we cannot and should not take."

The letter goes on to characterize the quest for Trump's tax returns, which is entirely legal, as "weaponizing our nation's tax code by targeting political foes."

The Republicans concluded by suggesting the committee "veer away from this dangerous path and work together to develop common sense improvement to our ethics laws."

The letter comes as the committee is set to hold its first hearing on obtaining tax returns from presidents and vice presidents since the Democrats took back majority control of the House in January.

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