The Justice Department has now formally concluded that the personal tax returns of former President Donald Trump “must” be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, CNBC reports. Previously, Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance obtained the materials in question as part of his office’s criminal investigation of the Trump company, but members of Congress who have been hoping to procure the documents had not yet been successful, although it’s not immediately clear when exactly that the tax returns may be provided to House members, if they’ve not been already.
The conclusion from the Justice Department that Trump’s tax returns shall be provided to Congress came from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Referring to the Treasury Secretary, the opinion from that office stated, in part, as follows: “The statute at issue here is unambiguous: ‘Upon written request’ of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary ‘shall furnish’ the requested tax information to the Committee.” House Democrats attempted to obtain Trump’s tax returns utilizing the statute in question during the Trump era, but then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resisted handing them over. Now, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has concluded that the request by House members in fact reflects a “legitimate legislative purpose,” according to their new findings.
The opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which emerged on Friday, added that financial records for members of the executive branch should be kept from chairpersons of tax committees in Congress “only in exceptional circumstances.” In this instance, they said, the “Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information.” Obtaining the documents — which, although obtained by Manhattan prosecutors, remain formally private (notwithstanding reporting on their contents by The New York Times) — could provide members of Congress with an opportunity to enact legislative reforms that would keep Trump-style financial corruption from unfolding in the future.
This instance is not the first recent occasion when federal authorities have allowed for the release of information to Congress that could be damaging to Trump. The Justice Department also recently transferred copies of notes to Congress that chronicle a conversation that took place late last year involving the then-acting attorney general, the then acting-deputy attorney general, and Trump. In the description of those notes, Trump told the Justice Department officials to “just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me.” This revelation shows the lengths to which Trump went while trying to use the powers of the federal government for his personal purposes.