As the battle over President Donald Trump’s federal taxes intensifies in Washington, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill Monday to allow congressional committees to access the president’s state tax returns.
The new law requires state tax officials to release the president’s state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the chair of one of three congressional committees: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
It is effective immediately, though it is unclear whether it will face a legal challenge from the Trump administration; on Monday, Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, called the new law “more presidential harassment.”
It was also uncertain if the committee leaders would test the new law; some Democrats on Capitol Hill have viewed New York’s effort warily, fearing it could complicate or even damage their quest to secure Trump’s federal returns.
The Ways and Means Committee, for example, has taken pains to present their request as part of a committee investigation into the IRS’ program for auditing presidents and not as an attempt — as Republicans charge — to simply embarrass Trump for political reasons.
Making an end-run around the federal returns at this point, the thinking goes, could undermine that justification and feed arguments from Trump’s allies that the House’s investigation is illegitimate.
A spokesman for the committee’s chairman, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., declined to comment Monday.
Nonetheless, activists pushing for Trump’s tax information to be shared with the public immediately called for Neal to avail himself of the new law.
“Any further delay is an injustice to the American people who deserve transparency about Trump’s foreign entanglements and massive conflicts of interest,” Ryan Thomas, a spokesman for one of the groups, Stand Up America, said in a statement.
Democrats in Washington have been unable to obtain Trump’s federal returns. The Ways and Means Committee has unsuccessfully sought six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns, and last week the House of Representatives sued the Treasury Department and the IRS to try to force them to release the returns.
The state tax documents from New York — the president’s home state and business headquarters — would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, tax experts say.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.