The Justice Department said Friday that the Treasury Department must release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee, concluding that the committee’s chairman had shown “sufficient reasons” for requesting them.
The opinion from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (read it here) is the latest wrinkle in Democrats’ long quest to obtain the returns.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), requested the returns and said that the committee had “serious concerns about the IRS’s full and fair administration of the tax laws with respect to a President and believes legislation may be needed in this area.”
According to the DOJ opinion, “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.'”
Dawn Johnsen, the acting assistant attorney general, wrote in the opinion that “the fact that a congressional request for information might serve partisan or other political interests is generally irrelevant to assessing its constitutionality, provided the request is, in fact, in the furtherance of a legitimate legislative task — just as presidential policy decisions are not suspect simply because the President may calculate that certain decisions will redound to his or her political benefit.”
The Supreme Court had ruled in 2020 that Trump’s accountant had to turn over his returns to Cyrus Vance, the district attorney of Manhattan, to comply with a grand jury subpoena. But the justices, in a 7-2 opinion, found fault with a congressional subpoena to obtain the returns, saying that lawmakers lacked a legislative reason for them.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the DOJ opinion.
“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security,” she said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president.”
It is unclear what next steps Trump will take, as he previously has fought the release. He broke with tradition in his presidential bids by refusing to release the returns publicly after promising several times to do so.