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Treasury Department must give Donald Trump’s taxes to Congress. Here’s why

The Department of Justice said Friday that the Treasury Department is required to hand over former President Donald Trump’s taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the CPAC.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Dallas.
LM Otero, Associated Press

The Department of Justice said Friday that the Treasury Department must hand over former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the U.S. Congress, The Associated Press reported.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said in a 39-page memo that the House Ways and Means Committee “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information,” according to the AP, and the Treasury Department is compelled by federal law to “furnish the information to the Committee.”

  • In a statement Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “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.”
  • On Twitter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Justice Department’s decision was a win for the “rule of law” and that “access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security. The American people deserve to know the facts of his conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president.”

Hasn’t Congress asked for Trump’s taxes before?

Federal law allows congressional tax committees, like the House’s Ways and Means, wide ability to request tax data from the Treasury Department, as long as those committees have “legitimate legislative purpose,” the Justice Department wrote in Friday’s memo.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen — who was sworn in during President Joe Biden’s first week in office — wrote in the memo that the Democrat-led committee’s request to review Trump’s taxes had met the letter of the law and that the Treasury “must comply” with Ways and Means’ request.

  • “Applying the proper degree of deference due the Committee, we believe that there is ample basis to conclude that its June 2021 Request for former President Trump’s tax information would further the Committee’s principal stated objective of assessing the IRS’s presidential audit program — a plainly legitimate area for congressional inquiry and possible legislation,” wrote Johnsen, The Hill reported.

Friday’s Justice Department memo upends the previous administration’s decision not to release Trump’s tax information. In 2019, Trump administration officials withheld those documents from Congress, saying then that Democrats were merely acting politically and had no real legislative purpose, The Washington Post reported.

  • After being denied Trump’s tax documents then, the Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit for the information, according to The Hill.
  • As the Republican nominee, Trump was the first presidential candidate in four decades not to release his tax information, The Washington Post reported.

In February, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump needed to hand over a decade of tax information and financial statements to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as part of the DA’s investigation into Trump business dealings in the New York.

  • That investigation has already led to criminal charges against Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, the Deseret News reported.