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Taking aim at President Trump, New York lawmakers voted on Wednesday to create a pathway for congressional committees to obtain the president’s state tax returns, potentially opening another avenue to shake loose information that he has long concealed.
The bill, passed by the Democrat-controlled State Senate, does not explicitly mention Mr. Trump, but there was little question that he was the focus: Mr. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, bucking a common practice of presidents for the past four decades.
The significance of the bill’s passage was underscored by a New York Times investigation published on Tuesday that disclosed that Mr. Trump had reported more than $1 billion in core business losses from 1985 and 1994, according to tax information obtained by The Times.
The Times found that in some years, Mr. Trump appeared to have lost more money than any other single taxpayer — a far cry from the president’s cultivated image as a self-made billionaire and master deal maker.
May 7, 2019
The findings drew angry denunciation from Mr. Trump, who said in a pair of Twitter posts on Wednesday that showing “losses for tax purposes” was considered a “sport” among real estate developers like himself.
“Real estate developers in the 1980s & 1990s, more than 30 years ago, were entitled to massive write-offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases,” the president wrote, adding, “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes … almost all real estate developers did.”
Mr. Trump then called The Times’s account “a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!”
Neither Mr. Trump nor the White House offered any comment on the New York Senate bill that passed 39 to 21, along almost straight party lines, with Democrats delivering the votes to secure its passage.
Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the tax return bill, said the Senate’s action was a direct result of Mr. Trump’s refusal to make his federal returns public, as well as a decision by the Treasury Department on Monday to defy an order from House Democrats to do so.
“If they won’t do it,” Mr. Hoylman said, “New York can.”
A tax return from New York could contain much of the same financial information as a federal return. If it becomes law, the bill would authorize the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by a leader of one of three congressional committees — the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation — for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.”
Mr. Hoylman has stressed that the bill would simply expand on current sharing of state tax information with federal officials, saying the “state tax department routinely supplies tax filing information to the I.R.S.”
Earlier this week, the Treasury Department announced it would not release the tax returns despite a formal request from House Democrats, kicking off a legal battle that will likely go to the Supreme Court.
Indeed, the new details about the president’s steep financial losses disclosed in The Times on Tuesday provided the fullest picture yet of his taxes, and could fuel House Democrats in their fight to get his federal tax returns. They also provided ample material to mock Mr. Trump’s oft-repeated claims of financial prowess.
“Trump was perhaps the worst businessman in the world,” said Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat of New Jersey and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “His entire campaign was a lie. He didn’t pay taxes for years and lost over $1 billion — how is that possible? How did he keep getting more money and where on earth was it all going? We need to know now.”
Mr. Pascrell insisted that the I.R.S. comply with his committee’s request. “We now have another part of the truth,” he said. “We need a lot more.”
During a weekly meeting with reporters on Wednesday, the House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said the new details bolstered the Democrats’ demand for Mr. Trump’s tax returns. He dismissed Mr. Trump’s longtime excuse that he was unable to release them because they were under audit.
“Presumably any time they get a piece of paper from Donald Trump, they put it under audit,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said that the revelations in The Times’s report were not of interest to the average voter. “What people are going to vote on is their economic well-being, not Trump’s economic well-being in the ’80s and ’90s,” Mr. Graham told reporters in Washington. “He’s been great for the economy. So people are going to judge Trump based on their tax return, not his.”
In New York, the Senate also passed another bill aimed at Mr. Trump that would exempt New York’s so-called double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons. If signed into law, it would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges against any aide to Mr. Trump who may be pardoned — a proposal initially floated by Eric T. Schneiderman, the former state attorney general of New York.
The sponsor of that bill, Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island and a former prosecutor, said the legislation would address “wanton threats of the use of the pardon power.”
The bills are expected to be discussed on Monday by the State Assembly, also led by Democrats, and are considered likely to pass there as well.
Mr. Hoylman and Mr. Kaminsky denied any partisan agenda, casting it instead as an attempt to help Congress fulfill its constitutional oversight duties. “As we fight this battle with Washington, we know that New York is in a unique role,” Mr. Hoylman said.
The state’s three-term Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, has also said he would support the bills.
Republicans in Albany were irate with both bills, calling them “bills of attainder,” a legislative act that singles out a person or a group for punishment without trial, and a blatantly political act in a deeply blue state.
“You may be aiming for the president, but there’s going to be a lot of collateral damage,” said Senator Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican. “Today it’s the president, tomorrow it’s the rest of us.”
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Vivian Wang contributed reporting.
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