What America has to say about Donald Trump's ethics

WASHINGTON -- As lawmakers seek to force Donald Trump to release his income tax returns, a majority of Americans indicated they believed the president has done something illegal or unethical. In a McClatchy-Marist survey asking about potential conflicts...

What America has to say about Donald Trump's ethics

WASHINGTON -- As lawmakers seek to force Donald Trump to release his income tax returns, a majority of Americans indicated they believed the president has done something illegal or unethical.

In a McClatchy-Marist survey asking about potential conflicts of interest between Trump's business holdings and his duties as president, just 41 percent said he had done nothing wrong, while 53 percent said Trump has done something illegal or unethical.

Trump broke with decades of precedent and refused to release his income tax returns while running for president. He has continued to say he will make them public once tax audits are done.

Trump's popularity 'sinking like a rock'

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th Dist.) has tried to get the House Ways and Means Committee to request the returns and then decide whether to release them publicly under a 1924 law enacted in response to the Teapot Dome scandal.

The returns would show whether Trump had any financial ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies said intervened in the presidential election to help him get elected.

The committee's Republican majority has rejected Pascrell's request. Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he did not want Congress to "rummage around in the tax returns of the president."

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month said 53 percent of U.S. voters wanted Trump to release his returns while 30 percent said he didn't have to.

Trump turned over control of his businesses to his sons though kept ownership of them. The head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said that the arrangement "does not comport with the tradition of our presidents over the past 40 years."

At Rep. Leonard Lance's combative town hall meeting in Branchburg on Wednesday, constituents pressed him on Trump's refusal to release his returns.

While Lance said Trump "should turn over his tax returns to the public," he said Pascrell's efforts went "too far."

"I don't like overreach from Congress," he said to resounding boos. "I don't think the Ways and Means Commitee should be investigating the returns of a private indvidual."

The questioner, Jim Girvan, a Branchburg retiree, shot back: "He's the president."

The survey of 1,073 adults was conducted Feb. 15-19 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

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