In the 39-page opinion, the Justice Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor (OLC) found that the committee “cited sufficient grounds to request the tax information from the former president” and said that “the law involved here is unambiguous ”.
The decision is the overturning of a 2019 opinion from the same office, which was then under the leadership of the Trump administration.
The new opinion says the previous ruling, which found the House committee’s request to be “spurious”, failed to take into account that Congress is a branch on par with the executive. The office now notes that the previous administration, by denying the request for tax records, “did not give the Committee the respect due to a coordinated branch of government”.
In April 2019, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, asked the Treasury Department for the individual tax records of Mr. Trump and those of eight Trump-related companies for 2013 to 2018 to review the IRS enforcement of tax laws that applied to the President. . Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked the OLC how to respond.
At that time, the OLC informed Mnuchin that the committee had to “demonstrate a legitimate legislative objective” for its request, and went on to say that since the Treasury had concluded that the committee’s request was a “pretext” and had requested Mr. Trump’s tax records “for public release,” the OLC agreed with the Treasury that the request was not legitimate and prohibited the Treasury from providing House Ways and Means with the tax records.
The notice released Friday challenged the Trump administration’s determination that the committee’s interest in returns was just a ruse to hide underlying political motives. On Friday, the OLC called the finding “irrelevant.”
“Congress is made up of elected members who stand for re-election. It is therefore neither unusual nor illegitimate for partisan or other considerations to be taken into account in the work of Congress, ”the opinion says. “If the mere presence of political motivation were enough to disqualify a request from Congress, it would effectively deprive Congress of its authority to seek information – a result inconsistent with the Constitution. “
The new opinion says the executive branch can conclude that an application to register Congress does not have a legitimate legislative purpose “only in exceptional circumstances.”
The Ways and Means Committee will review the former president’s tax returns for the years 2015-2020 and investigate whether he complied with tax laws.
“As I have maintained for years, the committee’s record is very solid and the law is on our side. I’m glad the Justice Department agrees and we can move forward, ”Neal said in response to the new OLC advice.
The review will examine several issues, including how long the IRS can enforce federal tax laws against the president, whether Mr. Trump’s taxes could reveal “hidden” business relationships that could lead to conflicts of interest. and whether his foreign trade relations influenced his time in the Office.
“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know the facts of their troubling conflicts of interest and to undermine our security and democracy as President. “
In February, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. obtained tax records from former President Trump after the Supreme Court refused to protect secret documents from investigators. Vance’s office investigated the former president’s business dealings in 2018, ranging from alleged hidden cash payments to women who claimed to have had relationships with Mr. Trump.