Trump faces legal headache over demands to see his tax returns

Congressional committee requests six years of president’s tax returns in unprecedented move

Donald Trump: House Democrats formally demanded that the IRS turn over six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns. Photograph: Shawn Thew/ Pool via Bloomberg

Donald Trump: House Democrats formally demanded that the IRS turn over six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns. Photograph: Shawn Thew/ Pool via Bloomberg

 

US president Donald Trump is facing a fresh legal headache, after a key congressional committee demanded to see six years of the president’s tax returns.

In an unprecedented move, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee cited a rarely used provision in the tax code, requesting that Mr Trump’s tax returns from 2013 to 2018 be released.

In a two-page letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner Democrat Richard Neal requested that the president’s federal tax returns and documents relating to several Trump businesses be submitted by April 10th.

“We have completed the necessary groundwork for a request of this magnitude and I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal, and oversight rights,” Mr Neal said.

“My actions reflect an abiding reverence for our democracy and our institutions, and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with Federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.”

He said that Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, “has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials”.

“The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans – including those elected to our highest office – are complying with those laws,” he added.

Under audit

Asked for his response to Mr Neal’s request, Mr Trump said he would not furnish the tax returns as he was already under audit, setting up a potential legal battle between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

“Until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to [release the returns],” he said.

Mr Trump broke with presidential tradition when he refused to disclose his tax returns on becoming president.

Mr Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress last month that his former boss had misrepresented the values of his assets in his tax returns.

The move by Mr Neal – who is also co-chairman of the Friends of Ireland caucus on Capitol Hill – is the latest attempt by Democrats in Congress to hold Mr Trump to account.

Earlier this week the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the special counsel report into Russian interference in the election. Attorney general William Barr submitted a four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s final report into Russian interference in the 2016 election late last month, but declined to furnish Congress with the full report.

He has since indicated that he intends to provide Congress with a redacted version of the report by mid-April.

Investigation

The continuing pressure on Mr Trump from Democrats unfolded as the New York Times reported that members of Mr Mueller’s team were unhappy with the attorney general’s characterisation of the 22-month investigation in the four-page summary released to Congress.

The newspaper reported frustration among members of Mr Mueller’s team that Mr Barr had quoted sparingly from the report. Mr Trump responded to reports of disquiet within the Mueller team on Thursday.

“The New York Times had no legitimate sources, which would be totally illegal, concerning the Mueller Report. In fact, they probably had no sources at all!,” he said on twitter. “They are a Fake News paper who have already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!”

Meanwhile, the president is scheduled to visit a section of the US-Mexico border in California