• Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

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Trump’s tax returns now in the hands of House Democrats after lengthy court battle

WASHINGTON — A Democratic-led House committee now has access to six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns after a multiyear court fight.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it had complied with last week’s Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the returns to be handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The panel didn’t immediately return a request for comment. CNN first reported that the committee had received the tax returns.

Even though the Treasury Department said it has complied with the court’s decision, it’s unclear whether anyone on the committee has actually seen the tax returns at this point, or what the process will be for accessing them.

A Treasury spokesperson declined to say whether the committee had accessed the documents.

Ways and Means Committee members are meeting Thursday, and lawmakers expect to learn more about Trump’s taxes then, one Democrat on the panel told NBC News.

“I’m not sure yet if we will see his taxes then or if we are just going to be walked through them,” the lawmaker said.

It’s unclear what House Democrats plan to do with the documents, especially as they face a GOP-takeover of the House in January. Republicans have made clear they’re not interested or concerned about Trump’s tax records.

Asked Wednesday about next steps, Committee Chairman Richard Neal, said, “I can’t talk about that.”

Neal, D-Mass., also noted that he was legally obligated not to disclose much information about handling Trump’s records.

“I’ll have better answers [after meeting] with the attorneys,” he said.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., a Ways and Means Committee member and early proponent of pushing to obtain Trump’s tax returns, told NBC News on Wednesday that the panel “will make a deliberative decision [on Trump’s tax records] by Jan. 3,” when Republicans officially take control of the chamber.

Asked if he would consider making the tax returns public, Pascrell said: “I would.”

The records transfer comes shortly after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s last-ditch plea to block the release of his tax records to House Democrats, just weeks before Republicans take the majority.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked the Ways and Means panel from accessing Trump’s tax records while the court decided how to act on the former president’s request.

Unlike other recent presidents, Trump has refused to make his tax returns public amid scrutiny of his business affairs, repeatedly claiming that he’s being audited by the IRS. Democrats have been demanding to see the records since the 2016 presidential campaign. 

But the legal battle began in April 2019, shortly after Democrats took control of the House, when Neal asked for Trump’s returns and those of related business entities. The Democratic chairman said he sought the information as part of the committee’s inquiries into whether tax law concerning presidents should be amended.

The Treasury Department during Trump’s presidency refused to comply with Neal’s request, saying in May 2019 that he did not have a valid legislative purpose for obtaining the documents. The committee filed a lawsuit two months later in what would become a lengthy battle to secure the returns.

For years, leading tax analysts have said the records must be provided to Congress because under federal law, if the chairs of the Ways and Means panel, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation formally request a person’s tax returns, Treasury Department officials “shall” turn the documents over.

Sahil Kapur and Jonathan Allen contributed.