Trump Lawyers Say Tax-Return Demand ‘Retaliation’ by Rivals
(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are asking a federal judge to block the release of his tax returns to Congress, saying Democrats’ pursuit of the documents amounts to political retaliation.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo on Friday calling for the release of Trump’s tax information to the Democrat-led House Ways and Means Committee. But House Democrats and lawyers for Trump agreed to delay the handover to allow the former president’s legal team to litigate the issue in court.
In a filing in Washington on Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers reiterated their longstanding opposition, arguing that Democrats demanded the tax returns to retaliate against President Trump “because of his policy positions, his political beliefs, and his protected speech.”
By complying with the committee’s request, the filing said, the Biden administration is “both carrying out the Committee’s unlawful discrimination and retaliation and engaging in their own unlawful discrimination and retaliation.”
Trump’s lawyers said the committee had no valid legislative reason for requesting the documents from Congress.
“The new OLC opinion does not deny the record of impermissible intent, but instead gives wobbly justifications and shallow reasoning for why the executive branch should ignore that evidence,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the filing on Wednesday. “The government’s complete reversal ... came, of course, under President Biden, a Democrat who ran against President Trump and made the disclosure of President Trump’s tax Returns a campaign issue.”
The Ways and Means case is part of a multi-pronged legal effort that House Democrats launched after Trump became the first president in modern history not to release his tax returns to the public. The case dates back to 2019, when the committee sued to compel then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hand over the tax records.
Other lawsuits over the president’s tax records -- involving his accountants and bankers -- have reached the Supreme Court, which ruled last year that Congress couldn’t compel disclosure, at least for the time being. Those cases were sent back to the lower courts to assess whether lawmakers should narrow the scope of the information they sought.
The Supreme Court has granted the district attorney in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, access to Trump’s tax records as part of a criminal investigation into the former president’s business dealings. But it’s unclear whether Vance will make those documents public.
In September 2020, the New York Times cited previously undisclosed returns in reporting that Trump had claimed chronic losses for years as a way to avoid taxes. He paid $750 in federal income tax in 2016, and paid no taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, the newspaper reported.
Trump dismissed the Times’ reporting last year about his tax payments as “totally fake news.”
The case is Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, 19-cv-1974, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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