Why does Congress want Trump’s tax returns?

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. The Supreme Court has allowed congressional access to Trump’s tax records.

Rebecca Blackwell, Associated Press

Despite former President Donald Trump’s requests to block Congress from obtaining access to his tax records, the Supreme Court will permit House Democrats to access Trump’s tax returns.

The case is three years in the making and started in lower courts and an appeals court, ultimately ending up in the Supreme Court. There were no dissenting votes from the high court justices on ignoring Trump’s lawyer’s requests to stop the House from accessing his tax records, per The New York Times.

The Treasury Department could now provide over six years of Trump’s tax records soon.

Why does Congress want Trump’s tax records?

When Trump was running for president for the first time in 2016, he refused to make his tax returns public, “breaking with modern precedent set by presidential candidates and presidents,” The New York Times reported.

The House Ways and Means Committee first requested access to the tax returns in 2019, as well as access to the tax information about some of his companies.

The treasury secretary at the time did not comply with the request, citing that the committee “lacked a legitimate legislative purpose,” per CNBC.

However, in 2020, committee chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked again for the tax returns, adding that the committee wanted to investigate any possible conflicts of interest that could possibly arise for a president.

Why did the Supreme Court allow access to Trump’s tax records now?

Trump’s lawyers have argued against granting access to his records for the last three years, saying, “No Congress has ever wielded its legislative powers to demand a president’s tax returns,” per CNN.

However, Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House, says the committee needs access now.

“Mr. Trump owned a complex web of businesses, engaged in business activities internationally, had a history of aggressive tax avoidance (as he has boasted), claimed to be under ‘continuous audit’ since before his presidency, and repeatedly denounced IRS audits of him as ‘unfair,’” Letter wrote, per CNN.

What happens now with Trump’s tax returns?

Republicans will take control of the House in January, after the midterm elections, so Democrats might not have time to pull and examine the records. Once the House is granted official access, the records could become public.

According to The Washington Post, the court’s order said:

“While it is possible that Congress may attempt to threaten the sitting President with an invasive request after leaving office, every President takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office. This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug.”

Sarah Gambles

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