San Francisco Chronicle
IRS ordered to give Trump’s tax returns to Congress
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says the Treasury Department must provide the House Ways and Means Committee former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, apparently ending a long legal showdown over the records.
During the Trump administration, thenTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he wouldn’t turn over the tax returns because he concluded they were being sought by Democrats who control the House of Representatives for partisan reasons.
The committee sued for the records under a federal law that says the Internal Revenue Service “shall furnish” the returns of any taxpayer to a handful of top lawmakers. The committee said it needed Trump’s taxes for an investigation into whether he complied with tax law.
In a memo dated Friday, Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel said the committee chairman “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information” and that under federal law, “Treasury must furnish the information to the Committee.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. already has obtained 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, taking the issue to the Supreme Court. The justices rejected Trump’s argument that he had broad immunity as president.
The lawsuit by the House committee is the culmination of a longrunning fight between Democrats and Trump over the returns, dating to the 2016 campaign, when Trump claimed that he could not release them due to an IRS audit. The records hold the promise of information that Trump has carefully guarded from public view, including about his business entanglements, relationships with foreign creditors and governments, and the value of his assets.
Mnuchin had concluded that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” The Justice Department in a legal opinion backed Mnuchin’s position, saying the request lacked a legitimate legislative purpose and was an “unprecedented” use of congressional authority.
In its lawsuit Tuesday, the committee said the administration has refused to turn over the documents “in order to shield President Trump’s tax return information from Congressional scrutiny.” The committee said it’s not required to explain to the Treasury Department its reasons for seeking the tax return information but that in this case the committee’s need is “evident.”
Steve Rosenthal, a fellow at the nonpartisan UrbanBrookings Tax Policy Center, said the committee was on strong legal footing with the lawsuit as “it is entitled to oversee and investigate the executive branch.”