A Washington D.C. appeals court has ruled that Congress can get copies of the tax returns of former president Donald Trump. After a three-year battle, Rep. Richard Neal’s (D-MA) request is being honored by both the Treasury Department and the court.
In April 2019, Congressman Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, sent a letter to the IRS Commissioner requesting the federal income tax returns of then-President Trump and several business entities, including DJT Holdings LLC and Trump’s Bedminister golf club.
“Considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President,’ was the stated reason for the request.
After the Treasury Department refused to comply, the committee filed a suit against the IRS to force the agency’s compliance.
“On May 6, 2019, the Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intent to comply with the 2019 Request because to was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose,” the court ruling states.
When President-elect Joe Biden was inaugurated – effectively replacing Trump as commander-in-chief – Neal sent another request to the Secretary of the Treasury and the IRS Commissioner. While they agreed this time to comply, Trump and his attorneys continued fighting to prevent the turning over the ex-President’s financial records, calling both the 2019 and 2021 requests “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
The appeals court disagreed.
“[u]pon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives… the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request…,” it ruled.
The court responded to claims by Trump’s representatives that the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and violates the separation of powers,” writing:
“The Chairman’s request, in this case, passes muster under all suggested variations of the separation of powers analysis.”
Citing the Presidential Audit Program and Nixon’s challenge to the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act in their decision, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Committee’s request was in compliance with the law, POLITICO reported.
In Nixon v. GSA, the then-president accused Congress of “disrupting” the power balance between the branches with the passage of the PRMPA – requiring the General Services Administration to acquire and store certain Nixon administration records.
The legislation was introduced in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.
In 1974, it was revealed that the IRS failed to properly audit President Richard Nixon’s tax returns. As a result, under the Presidential Audit Program, every sitting President’s returns are subject to mandatory agency review.
It is a type of oversight that is believed to have been inadequately handled. The Committee wrote in its request that it was seeking “assurance that sufficient safeguards exist to shield a revenue agent from undue influence at the hands of a President trying to secure a favorable audit.”
For years, ex-President Trump has played fast and loose with his financial disclosures – avoiding accountability along the way. But with the latest judicial loss, Judge David Sentelle said it best, writing in his opinion:
“Every President takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office.”
Except for Trump that is. He apparently missed that memo.
Original reporting by Kyle Cheney at POLITICO.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
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