Congressional freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made quite a debut in her new role as member of the House Oversight Committee today (Feb. 27). The first hearing in which the Democratic representative took part was the highly anticipated testimony of Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Ocasio-Cortez’s questions laid out the path to a subpoena of Trump’s elusive tax returns. Picking up on a previous line of questioning, the New York representative asked:
To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?
Cohen answered affirmatively to both questions.
Ocasio-Cortez continued by asking Cohen to verify the New York Times’ report that “president Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents,” and that he “helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing his tax bill.” Since Cohen couldn’t corroborate that information because he wasn’t working for Trump at the time, she then asked:
Would it help for the committee to obtain federal and state tax returns from the president and his company to address that discrepancy?
With these answers, Ocasio-Cortez obtained a practical, televised justification for demanding that the president’s tax return be subpoenaed. Thus far, Democrats’ demands to see the tax returns have essentially been underpinned by an ethical argument—that is, that the president should be transparent about his tax returns because the people have a right to that information. After this interrogation, however, it seems that the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee may have grounds to request the returns as a legal necessity.