With no comment or recorded dissent, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ended former President Donald Trump’s years-long battle to shield his tax returns from Democrats in the House of Representatives. of that information could become public.
The decision follows a nearly four-year battle by the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain his personal and business records. Trump has insisted that the exercise is politically motivated and that Congress does not have the authority to request the documents. But since he left office, he has suffered one loss after another in trying to keep the information private.
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In a post on Truth Social on Wednesday, Trump overturned the court’s decision. “Handing over tax returns is unprecedented, and sets a terrible precedent for future presidents,” he wrote.
Trump broke precedent when he declined as a presidential candidate, and when he was elected, to release his tax returns, something every president since Richard M. Nixon has done. The explanation he gave was that he was being audited, although numerous experts have said an audit would not have prevented him from releasing his returns.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes just before the Democrats, who lead the committee, must cede control of the chamber to the Republicans. The GOP will take over in January, based on the results of the midterm elections.
Here’s what you need to know about Congress’s power to receive tax returns, what led to the Supreme Court decision and what comes next:
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Can Congress get my tax records?
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Yes. A 1924 law allows certain congressional committees to obtain tax returns from the Treasury Department, which oversees the Treasury Department. The law says the Secretary of the Treasury “will provide” documents requested by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Committee on Finance and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The committees can obtain the documents as long as they pursue it with a legitimate committee purpose.
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Can Congress get the president’s tax records?
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Legally, experts say the answer is yes. But the Trump administration, and later his lawyers, have resisted such efforts.
In April 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee requested six years of personal and business tax returns from Trump. At the time, the tax information was critical to investigations, including questions about Trump’s financial dealings and possible ties to foreign governments.
The Trump administration would not play ball. Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued that the House Democrats’ request did not serve a “legitimate legislative purpose” and that a disclosure would violate Trump’s privacy. He also said the request was “unprecedented”.
Trump managed to beat back the efforts of the House Democrats until Joe Biden took office in January 2021. In July of that year, the Ministry of Justice determined that the documents should indeed be transferred. That determination provoked fierce, protracted, and ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges from Trump.
In December 2021, a federal judge rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyers that the tax information could not be turned over, saying that Trump’s case was weakened in part because he was no longer president. A federal appeals court panel in August similarly sided with House Democrats, and the full court later declined to reconsider its decision. The Supreme Court closed the case this week.
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Is there a precedent for this?
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In 1973, the IRS turned over President Richard M. Nixon’s tax returns the same day the Joint Committee on Taxation requested them amid questions about his income taxes.
The commission reviewed the records and found that he owed nearly $500,000 in additional taxes over four years. The Joint Committee of Taxation voted to release a report containing information on Nixon’s tax returns.
While the Trump administration resisted the disclosure of its taxes, Democrats instigated the Nixon precedent, which challenged Mnuchin’s claim that Democrats’ demands for the president’s tax records were unprecedented. Republicans argued that the two cases could not be compared, pointing out that Nixon requested the investigation of his tax returns, Trump did not.
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What can happen next?
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The Treasury Department has not publicly stated when it will hand over the tax data, only that it will comply, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told CNN Tuesday that the committee will receive the documents “next week.”
But Democrats have only a little over a month to review the documents before Republicans officially take control of the House.
While it’s generally illegal for the government to release anyone’s tax records, the House committee may be able to release certain information about Trump’s return through a report or other findings, a Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said. to describe internal deliberations, spoke to The Post on Tuesday. The committee would have to vote to make the information public, the aide said.
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Robert Barnes, Jeff Stein, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner, and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post contributed to this report.
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