Former President Donald Trump’s tax returns were released by the U.S. House Ways and Means committee on Friday, several years after the businessman turned commander-in-chief broke political precedent by refusing to share his tax information with the public when he ran for office in 2016.
Democrats and Trump critics have long been calling for these returns to be made public, citing transparency and accountability, while many Republicans and Trump supporters have argued that this would violate the president’s right to privacy.
So it should come as no surprise that reactions to the release of Trump’s tax returns were similarly split on Friday.
“‘A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.‘”
— Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal
Trump released a statement saying that, “Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people.”
Read more: Trump warns sharing his tax returns will ‘lead to horrible things for so many people’
And this was echoed by the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which released the tax documents.
“Democrats have charged forward with an unprecedented decision to unleash a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president, overturning decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since Watergate,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas). “This is a regrettable stain on the Ways and Means Committee and Congress, and will make American politics even more divisive and disheartening. In the long run, Democrats will come to regret it.”
But in releasing six years of Trump’s tax returns, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) said in his opening statement on Friday that, “A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.”
Neal added that the public release of the documents was necessary because Congress serves as a check to the executive branch of government, and the committee is also looking to improve U.S. tax laws. “Our work has always been to ensure our tax laws are administered fairly and without preference, because at times, even the power of a president can loom too large,” he said.
And many Democratic leaders agreed.
“The American people want to have trust that the most powerful individual in this country … is making decisions based on the interest of American people and not their own self financial interest,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a California Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, told Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott.
Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia who also serves on the committee, tweeted that the presidential audit program is “broken,” and added in a Twitter thread that “despite promising to release his tax returns, Donald Trump refused to do so, and abused the power of his office to block basic transparency on his finances and conflicts of interest which no president since Nixon has foregone.”
Others called the tax document drop “a great day for democracy,” while some critics, including actor John Leguizamo, speculated whether there were any bombshells in the tax documents that would lead the former president to go to jail.
Readers including journalists, tax experts and anyone with access to the Trump tax returns were still combing over the thousands of pages of documentation on Friday. But some early revelations, such as the countries listed in Trump’s foreign tax credit filing, or paperwork suggesting that he did not, in fact, donate his presidential salary to charity as promised, began circulating on social media.
Read more on the Trump tax returns at MarketWatch:
Trump’s tax returns are now public after long fight with Congress
Democrats release six years of Trump’s tax returns, and CPAs have questions: ‘The personal tax return is just the tip of the iceberg.’
Opinion: Trump’s ultralow tax payments are what happens when government tries to make policy through the tax code