WASHINGTON (AP) – The Justice Department says the Treasury Department must submit former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee in what appears to be ending a lengthy legal showdown on the records.
During the Trump administration, then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would not issue tax returns because he concluded they were being overtaken by Democrats who control the House of Representatives on partisan grounds.
The committee sued under federal law requiring the Internal Revenue Service to “deliver” every taxpayer’s tax returns to a handful of top lawmakers. The committee said it needed Trump’s taxes to investigate whether he was complying with tax laws.
In a memo on Friday, the judiciary’s lawyer said the chairman of the committee “gave sufficient reasons to request the former president’s tax information” and that federal law “requires the Treasury Department to submit the information to the committee.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has received copies of Trump’s personal and business tax records as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Trump tried to prevent his accountants from handing over the documents and took the matter to the Supreme Court. The judges rejected Trump’s argument that he had broad immunity as president.
A House committee sued the Trump administration in federal court Tuesday for access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns and launched a legal showdown on the records.
The House Ways and Means Committee said it needed the documents, among other things, for an investigation into the president’s compliance with tax law. It asked the court to order the administration to hand over the documents.
The lawsuit is the culmination of a longstanding dispute between Democrats and Trump over the repayments that dates back to the 2016 campaign when Trump claimed he could not clear it due to an IRS review. The records contain the promise of information that Trump carefully protected from the public, including about his business entanglements, relationships with foreign creditors and governments, and the value of his assets.
The committee originally required six years of Trump’s tax records in early April under a bill that said the Internal Revenue Service should “pass” every taxpayer’s tax returns to a handful of top lawmakers. But Mnuchin informed the committee in May that he would not turn the proceeds over to the Democratic-controlled house.
Mnuchin concluded that the Treasury Department “has no authority to disclose requested returns and return information.” The Justice Department issued a legal opinion backing Mnuchin’s position, saying the motion had no legitimate legislative purpose and was an “unprecedented” use of the authority of Congress.
The argument is the same one Trump used to reject other Congress requests for financial records from accountants and banks with whom Trump and his family did business. Lawsuits over these records have been filed in federal courts in Washington and New York, and Trump lost in the opening rounds of those lawsuits.
In its lawsuit on Tuesday, the committee said the government had refused to release the documents “to protect President Trump’s tax return information from congressional scrutiny.” The committee said it was not required to explain to the Treasury Department its reasons for collecting the tax return information, but in this case the committee’s need was “obvious”.
“Without reviewing the requested return documentation, the committee cannot ensure that the IRS review process is working fairly and effectively, cannot understand how President Trump’s returns will affect tax code provisions, or exercise its legislative judgment, to determine whether changes can be made to the Code. “Justified,” the lawsuit states.
The president has refused to “follow the practice of all elected presidents since Richard Nixon of voluntarily disclosing their tax returns,” the lawsuit said.
It is unclear how long it will take to resolve the lawsuit. Disputes between Congress and the executive branch can in some cases last for years, and the government may seek to extend the lawsuit to delay the provision of records. However, if, as the committee suggests, the battle boils down to the text of the law, a solution could be reached more quickly, although it can be challenged.
Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the bipartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said the committee had solid legal bases on the lawsuit because “it has the authority to oversee the executive and investigate, which is a key element of our controls and deliberations is”. . “
Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that the Treasury Department had “broken the law” despite the “mandatory obligation”.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has defied House Democratic calls for Trump’s tax returns, saying that it was partisan and that the request could set a dangerous precedent. Grassley is the only other member of Congress, besides Neal, legally empowered to solicit tax returns from the Treasury Secretary.
“It should be alarming to any American that there are attempts by elected officials to arm the IRS for partisan purposes,” Grassley said earlier this year.
Associated Press authors Marcy Gordon and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
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