NEW YORK, April 4: How rich is Trump really? If the Democrats are successful in their campaign to unearth his tax filings, it may finally be known if his net worth is $10 billion as he has claimed or less than a third of that as estimated by others.
On Wednesday, House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal demanded that the Trump administration turn over the boastful billionaire's and his businesses' tax returns for the past six years.
As the head of the panel that deals with tax matters, Neal has the authority to see confidential the tax documents. Trump immediately refused to provide them and may go to courts to keep them secret.
The legislators may be interested in examining the tax filings for irregularities and possible violations, but the public would be more keen to find out how rich the billionaire real estate developer really is and how much taxes he has paid - or avoided paying them or reduced them because of business losses or other deductions.
Trump has used his claims of wealth and business acumen as his qualification to be president and to justify his unconventional negotiating tactics at home and abroad.
While he is no doubt the richest US President in history and did not rise from a log cabin like Abraham Lincoln, Trump's claims of wealth have been controversial.
During the election campaign, he claimed a net worth of $10 billion, but Forbes magazine, which tracks the world's billionaires, estimates it at $3.1 billion and ranks him the 715th richest person, while Bloomberg says he is worth only $2.8 billion.
His former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has told a House panel that Trump had claimed in documents a net worth of $4.5 billion in 2012 and that it had suddenly jumped to $8.6 billion the next year when he sought a loan from Deutsche Bank to buy an American football team.
While all modern presidents and most presidential candidates have disclosed their tax filings for transparency in their finances, Trump has refused to do so, even though the Democrats made it an election issue. He maintains his tax filings are still being audited and he will not release them till the audits are over.
Meanwhile, amid stiff Republican opposition, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to authorise Chairman Jerry Nadler to compel Attorney General William Barr to turn over the full report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that had, according to a summary by Barr, absolved Trump of colluding with Russians in his election.
The Mueller report summary issued last month by Barr was a blow to Democratic hopes that it would implicate Trump in a clandestine election deal with Russia. But Barr's statement that report neither exonerated Trump nor found him guilty of obstruction of justice gives Democrats hope finding something to go against Trump.
Not satisfied with the summary, Democrats are hoping for some nuggets in the report that would undercut Barr's summary or provide leads for other inquiries against Trump and his associates or family.
Nadler had set a Tuesday deadline for him to turn over the full report, but Barr has refused to comply saying that he would need time to study in order to withhold sensitive portions of it as legally required before releasing it.
He has said it may take him till the end of this month or sometime next month to continue the review. Legally he is not allowed to disclose some of the secret testimony and he also wants to redact matters of national security like the details of work by US or other intelligence agencies.
For now, Nadler has said that he would not immediately issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report and associated documents hoping that Barr changes his mind.
It is also likely to end up in courts.
Nadler 's committee also authorised him to demand the appearance of five former Trump officials to testify about the obstruction of justice and other allegations against Trump.
The former officials include Reince Priebus, who was chief of staff; Steve Bannon, an adviser; lawyer Don McGahn, and Hope Hicks, who was the communications director. - IANS