Donald Trump’s Next Defeat: The Committee Can See the Tax

fThe Supreme Court’s decision may come at an inconvenient time for Donald Trump. Only a week ago he announced his repeated candidacy for president in a grand speech, now he’s making headlines again with a legal dispute – and with a final defeat. For more than three years, the former president has tried to prevent his tax documents from being released to the Democrat-led House of Representatives committee responsible for tax policy. That has now failed at the highest instance with the rejected urgent request from the Supreme Court. Tuesday’s document, with only two sentences and no further justification, clears the way for the IRS to turn the documents over to the Congressional Committee. Specifically, it concerns tax documents of Trump and his companies from the years 2013 to 2018.

Sofia Dreisbach

North American political correspondent based in Washington.

It is actually a tradition for US presidents to make their tax returns public. As late as 2014, Trump assured that if he was running for president, he would “absolutely” submit it. When he was elected to office, he broke that promise and became the first president in four decades. His critics therefore suspect that the former businessman has something to hide. However, the Democrats on the committee do not justify the release of Trump’s tax documents with possible criminal relevance. The documents are intended to test the state of accountability for presidents.

Will Trump’s tax returns be released?

A 2019 statement from the committee chair, Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, said little was known about the effectiveness of the IRS’s review of sitting presidents’ tax records. On behalf of the American people, the committee must determine “whether these policies are being followed, and if so, whether these assessments are being made fully and properly.” For this it is necessary to view Trump’s tax returns.

Trump’s lawyers, on the other hand, accuse the commission of political motivation. The publication of the tax documents is unconstitutional and violates the separation of powers. This reasoning has been contradicted by all authorities up to the Supreme Court. Democratic committee chairman Neal initially declined to comment on whether the tax returns would be made public. According to an anonymous source familiar with the Washington Post process, that will not be decided until the paperwork is in. The New York Times reported during the 2020 election campaign that Trump paid no federal income taxes for 11 of the 18 years between 2000 and 2019. In the years 2016 and 2017, he would have paid only $ 750 each.

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According to Neal, the board now “finally gets the overview that we have been striving for for three and a half years”. But the commission doesn’t have much time to thoroughly review Trump’s six-year tax bill. The new Congress meets in Washington on January 3. Then the Republicans will have a majority in the House of Representatives and there is a good chance that the committee will put the request on hold under its new leadership. After Trump’s urgent application, Neal had warned the Supreme Court not to interfere and reminded them of the imminent change in the House of Representatives. Otherwise, Congress would have “little or no time to continue its legislative work.” It is not yet clear when exactly the documents will be handed over to the committee. Trump’s lawyers argue that precisely because there is so little time for the change in Congress, the documents cannot be processed conscientiously.

Trump, who is also the center of attention for other judicial matters, initially did not respond to the Supreme Court ruling. Instead, on his social network Truth Social, he attacked Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, who was appointed last week by the Justice Department to be responsible for future investigations against him. On the one hand, it concerns Trump’s role in connection with the attempted impeded change of power after the 2020 presidential election, and on the other hand, the sealing documents he took from the White House to his property in Florida.

The dispute over Trump’s tax records began in 2019. At the time, the commission demanded that the documents be handed over for the first time, but the IRS refused to do so during Trump’s presidency. Under Joe Biden, the senior Justice Department changed course. In October of this year, after a multi-agency legal battle, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that the tax documents should be turned over to the Legal Committee. In early November, however, Trump’s lawyers initially stopped publication with an urgent application to the Supreme Court, which has since been rejected. Last year, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request that financial records in his possession not be turned over to the New York Attorney’s Office.

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