Politics

Justice Department says IRS must give Trump’s tax returns to Congress

The Justice Department on Friday said the Treasury Department must hand over former President Trump’s tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee, putting an apparent end in sight to the yearslong battle over the records.

In the 39-page opinion, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found the committee “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information,” adding that “the statute at issue here is unambiguous.”

The decision is a reversal to a 2019 opinion from the same office, which was under the direction of the Trump administration. The office says the previous decision failed to account that Congress is a co-equal branch to the executive and instead heavily focused on the belief the request was “disingenuous.” The office departed from the previous administration, saying it “failed to afford the Committee the respect due to a coordinate branch of government.”

In 2016, Mr. Trump refused to publicly release his tax returns to Congress. The opinion Friday disagreed with the Trump administration’s insistence that the committee’s interest in the returns was simply a ruse for underlying political motivations, writing at one point, the committee intended to embarrass Mr. Trump or to “expose for the sake of exposure”. The department Friday called that finding “irrelevant.”

“Congress is composed of elected members who stand for re-election. It is, therefore, neither unusual nor illegitimate for partisan or other political considerations to factor into Congress’s work,” the opinion says. “If the mere presence of a political motivation were enough to disqualify a congressional request, the effect would be to deny Congress its authority to seek information — a result that is incompatible with the Constitution.”

The Ways and Means Committee will review the former president’s tax returns from the years 2015 through 2020, and investigate whether he complied with tax laws.

“As I have maintained for years, the Committee’s case is very strong and the law is on our side. I am glad that the Department of Justice agrees and that we can move forward,” said Richard E. Neal, the committee’s chairman.

The review will look at several matters, including the lengths the IRS can enforce federal tax laws against the president, whether Mr. Trump’s taxes could unearth “hidden” business relationships that may post conflicts of interests and whether his foreign business dealings influenced his time in office.

“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president.”

In February, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. obtained former President Donald Trump’s tax records after the Supreme Court declined to shield the secretive documents from investigators. Vance’s office has been investigating the former president’s business dealings in 2018, spanning from alleged hush-money payments made to women who claimed to have engaged in affairs with Mr. Trump

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