House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 6, 2019.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 6, 2019.

WHITE HOUSE -  A U.S. House of Representatives committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the subject of presidential tax returns, an initial step in a process that could lead the Democratic-led panel to examine President Donald Trump's tax information.

Democrats last month took over as the majority party in the House and are embarking on a number of investigations at the committee level looking into Trump's financial interests and whether they might be driving certain policy decisions.

Tax returns are confidential, but under law the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has the power to obtain anyone's tax filing.  

The issue has lingered since Trump launched his presidential campaign and broke with modern precedent by not voluntarily disclosing his tax information.  His opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, did release her tax return.

Trump objects to the efforts by Democratic lawmakers to examine his personal finances.  He said they have no reason to do so and called the probes "presidential harassment."

"A continuation of Witch Hunt!" he wrote on Twitter early Thursday.

At a White House event on Wednesday, Trump targeted his criticism at Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat and prominent Trump critic who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

“Under what basis would he do that? He has no basis to do that. He’s just a political hack. He’s trying to build a name for himself,” Trump said.

Donald Trump and David Malpass
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, Feb. 6, 2019.

Hours earlier, Schiff declared that the committee would broaden its investigation to go “beyond Russia” and examine whether Trump’s concern for his financial interests is driving his policy decisions and other actions as president.

The committee’s wider mandate will “allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the president or anyone in the administration,” Schiff told reporters. “That pertains to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else.”

In a statement, the California congressman and former federal prosecutor said the committee would continue examining Russia’s actions during the 2016 presidential election as well as contacts between Moscow and Trump’s campaign team, but now would also scrutinize “whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates.”

The committee, earlier Wednesday, voted to send more than 50 transcripts of interviews from its Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller.

House Panel Votes to Send Russia Transcripts to Mueller

When the panel was under Republican control last year, lawmakers of the then-majority party in the House of Representatives sought to bring their investigation to an end, despite protests from Democrats that it was premature to reach any conclusions.

Trump, during his State of the Union address Tuesday to lawmakers of both chambers, termed such inquiries by congressional committees “ridiculous partisan investigations.”

In his speech, Trump stated, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that Congress would be “delinquent” if it failed to carry out its oversight responsibilities and that Trump “should not bring threats to the floor of the House.”