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Tom Steyer says he will continue to push Neal on Trump’s tax returns

Billionaire political activist Tom Steyer (pictured) has a new message for Springfield Democrat Richard Neal: Thank you, next.
Steve Pope/Getty Images/File 2019
Billionaire political activist Tom Steyer (pictured) has a new message for Springfield Democrat Richard Neal: Thank you, next.

Billionaire political activist Tom Steyer has a new message for Springfield Democrat Richard Neal: Thank you, next.

Steyer’s organization focused on impeaching Trump — succinctly called Need to Impeach — has spent a lot of time and money pushing Neal, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, to subpoena President Trump’s tax returns. Steyer himself hosted a town hall in Neal’s district, and Need to Impeach spent tens of thousands of dollars on television ads and three billboards along Interstate 90 — all to pressure Neal to use the tax-return-demanding power imbued in his new position.

Now that Neal has formally requested six years of Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, Need to Impeach says it will be changing the billboards to thank Neal — but also to encourage him to make the information public.

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“We are really happy to see it,” Steyer said in an interview with the Globe. “We’re sorry it took so long, and we want to make sure this happens as fast as possible.”

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Of course, it looks like it will be a long court battle before Neal could get his hands on those taxes. The Trump administration is expected to fight Neal’s move, and the ensuing legal battle would almost certainly be drawn out and could very well go as far as the Supreme Court.

The president told reporters Wednesday he was not “inclined” to release his returns because he’s under audit by the IRS — the same reason he’s given since early 2016 for not producing the documents. Trump was the first major presidential party nominee since 1976 not to publicly release his tax returns.

Steyer says he plans to continue pressuring Neal and other congressional Democrats to keep up the pace, before it’s too late for voters to use the information contained within those coveted tax documents to decide whether Trump deserves to stay in office.

“At some point, this is embarrassing for the president but irrelevant,” Steyer said. To that end, Need to Impeach plans to continue its activity in Neal’s district, he said.

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Steyer’s impeachment crusade frustrates many Democratic leaders, who feel it is not helpful to the party’s chances at the ballot box in 2020. But Steyer says he is driven by principle: “Are we going to allow the President of the United States to flagrantly break his oath to the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and the norms of civil society?” he said.

If Congress doesn’t stand up to Trump on the tax returns, it will make it more likely future presidents feel emboldened to act similarly, Steyer said. “If you basically say the president is above the law, you can do whatever you want, there are no rules, let’s be clear you’re setting the precedent . . . for every president.”

Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.