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Minnesota congressmen won’t say why they’re keeping Trump’s tax returns secret

Trump lost Erik Paulsen's suburban Minneapolis district by 10 points. But so far the congressman has voted 100 percent in lockstep with Trump's positions.

Trump lost Erik Paulsen's suburban Minneapolis district by 10 points. But so far the congressman has voted 100 percent in lockstep with Trump's positions. Kevin Rofidal

Forty-two days into his presidency, Donald Trump hasn't released his tax returns, barring voters from knowing whether his investments pose a conflict with U.S. policy.

Three Minnesotans are doing their best to keep it that way. Republican Congressmen Tom Emmer, Jason Lewis, and Erik Paulsen all voted last week to maintain the president’s secrets.

A bill by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) would have forced Trump to release the last 10 years’ worth of returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which would then review the documents before voting to send the information to the full House.

But even this modest effort was shot down with the help of Minnesota’s Republicans. And they’re not eager to explain their votes, though polls show that 75 percent of Americans favor release. (All three declined repeated interview requests for this story.)

Paulsen in particular has been reluctant to explain his stance to constituents. It’s hard to find a positive comment on his Facebook posts, with constituents demanding he answer to them rather than the party.

Jodi McKee, who lives in Deephaven, says she’s called Paulsen’s office a few times regarding this vote and others, and has yet to get a sufficient response.

McKee wants to know why Paulsen keeps voting along party lines, rather than representing a district where Trump lost by 10 points. One staffer told her it would be illegal for Paulsen to vote to release the returns, and another accused her of not understanding the issue.

“I think we as Americans have the right to know what conflicts of interest the president may have that are informing the decisions he’s making,” McKee says. “Paulsen’s voted no on this twice. It just doesn't feel right.”

Will Donovan of St. Louis Park believes much the same.

“The Republican vote in lockstep to keep Trump’s taxes secret tells me that we cannot rely on them to keep this chaotic and erratic administration in check. It also signals that there is likely something Trump is hiding. I don’t know how else to read it.”

Sally Cairns, who lives in Lewis’ district, cites Trump’s ties to Russia, and believes the tax returns could shed light on what we don’t know about the president.

“Without his taxes, Americans don’t know what he stands to gain and who he is in debt to,” she says. “Will he leverage the position of U.S. president to ease his financial obligations?”