Tue, 16 Jul 2019

New York state on Monday cleared the way for Democrats in the US Congress to obtain President Donald Trump's state tax returns, raising the possibility of fresh avenues of inquiry for legislators investigating his finances.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to a tax law that would require the commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance to share state income tax returns and reports when certain congressional committees request them. The law, known as the TRUST Act, authorises state officials to share tax return information of elected officials upon request from Congressional Committees. It was passed by the New York State Assembly in May.

"This bill gives Congress the ability to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law," said Cuomo, a Democrat.

Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, responded to the law by calling it an example of "more presidential harassment".

"We will respond to this as appropriate," he said in a statement.

The law, effective immediately, opens a new avenue for the Democratic majority in Congress to investigate Trump's business affairs.

"Today, New York reaffirmed its commitment to the idea that no individual is above the rule of law," said Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal. "This bill brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the president's financial dealings."

New York's state legislature has had a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate since Democrats won control of the Senate in 2018.

US congressional Democrats have pushed for the release of Trump's tax returns since he took office.

"Our republic has endured for over 200 years thanks to the system of checks and balances provided in our Constitution. Consistent with this tradition, New York State now stands ready to assist Congress, including as it challenges the Trump administration's refusal to provide the president's tax returns," said David Buchwald, a state assemblyman who spearheaded the new law. "The legislation we passed in New York will provide Congress with a direct path to what the president, or any president, wants to hide from the people's representatives. No one is above the law."

In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the House Ways and Means committee's request that the Internal Revenue Service turn over six years of Trump's federal tax returns, citing his belief that the committee did not have a legitimate legislative reason for the request.

The committee sued Mnuchin and the Treasury Department last week to appeal Mnuchin's decision.

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