One hundred million years ago, when Donald Trump was running for president, he claimed that the reason he was breaking with the decades-long tradition in which White House hopefuls voluntarily released their tax returns was that he was under audit but would get them to the public ASAP. Obviously, like so many things out of Trump’s mouth, both the excuse and the promise were lies: According to experts, an audit does not preclude someone from making their tax returns public and Trump went four years without ever coughing up anything. Why was Trump so loathe to share his tax documents? While we would never dare think it, others assumed that it was because he had something—for instance, possible tax evasion, fraud, connection to Russian oligarchs, etc.—to hide. And six months after leaving office, he’d like to keep hiding whatever those tax returns might reveal!
Days after the Justice Department said the Treasury must turn over six years of his tax returns to congressional investigators—who’ve been asking for them for two years—Trump and his attorneys announced that they plan to go to the ends of the earth to make sure his financial information remains under lock and key. Ronald Fischetti, Trump’s lawyer, said in a statement, “There is no evidence of any wrongdoing here and I object to the release of the returns not only on behalf of my client but on behalf of all future holders of the office of the president of the United States.” (Note: Trump is one of the only presidents in the last 50 years not to release his returns and moving forward, unless another Trump runs for office, other candidates will presumably follow the precedent set by those with nothing to hide.) Fischetti also called the opinion from the DOJ “absolutely ridiculous” and said, “We’re going to fight this tooth and nail.”
While Team Trump is no doubt terrified at the prospect of congressional investigators getting their hands on Trump’s tax returns, it‘s likely also feeling out of sorts given that the decision from Biden’s DOJ is a reversal from the one run by William Barr, which claimed the Treasury, then being led by Trump footstool Steven Mnuchin, was justified in refusing to hand the documents over to Congress. (In a dignity-shredding letter, addressed to the House Ways and Means Mnuchin wrote in May 2019 that he had “determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and therefore he is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Legal experts who, unlike Mnuchin, actually know the law, noted at the time that it would be unprecedented for the secretary to not turn over the returns, given that a 1924 law expressly states that “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.” But Mnuchin, loyal stooge that he was, had indicated for some time now that he would do no such thing.)
What happens now is unclear, but Trump will undoubtedly do whatever it takes to keep hiding whatever his returns might reveal a secret. Per The Wall Street Journal:
While Trump could get lucky in this instance, and effectively block Congress from accessing his documents for who knows how long, it’s also possible his luck will run out like it did in another case regarding his financial documents. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that his accountants had to turn over his tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who may ultimately use them to send the ex-president to prison.
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