Former President Donald Trump suffered major setbacks on Friday in his battle against prosecution over fiscal crimes when the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the release his tax records and disclosed a memo he wrote last year directing top officials to falsely claim his election defeat was “corrupt.”
Specifically, the DOJ ruled that the income tax returns of the former President must be released by the IRS to Congress, as DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel affirmed that Congress had made a legitimate request to see Trump’s tax returns.
The DOJ’s decision came more than a year after the Supreme Court had ruled that Trump’s tax returns and other financial records had to be turned over by his longtime accountants to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. as part of a criminal probe.
In its 39-page opinion, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee had made a request with a legitimate legislative purpose to see the former President’s tax returns, with a stated objective of assessing how the IRS audits presidents’ tax returns.
A news report sourced by our correspondent from on cnbc.com, indicated that 39-page opinion reversed an earlier opinion by the same office during the Trump administration, which backed the IRS’ refusal to give the committee Trump’s returns.
According to the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion, under federal law, the tax-related committees of Congress have a “broad right” to obtain taxpayer information from the Treasury Department, the IRS’ parent.
The opinion clarified: “The statute at issue here is unambiguous: ‘Upon written request’ of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary ‘shall furnish’ the requested tax information to the Committee.”
While those committees cannot force the executive branch of the government to compel disclosure of that information, the opinion noted that tax returns should be denied to the committees “only in exceptional circumstances,” and when that request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
The opinion further reflected that the OLC “went astray” in 2019 by suggesting that the executive branch should “closely scrutinize the Committee’s stated justifications for its requests” in a way that failed to give due respect and deference to the legislative branch of government.
The latest DOJ’s decision comes more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court said that Trump’s tax returns and other financial records had to be turned over by his longtime accountants to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., because of a subpoena issued as part of criminal probe.
It would be recalled that the Trump Organization and its long-serving Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged on July 1 this year with crimes related to an alleged scheme since 2005 to avoid the payment of taxes on compensation for the CFO and other top officials of the organization.
Former President Trump broke decades of precedent as both a presidential candidate and occupant of the White House by refusing to voluntarily release his income tax returns.