WASHINGTON (AFP): US lawmakers voted Tuesday to make public Donald Trump’s tax returns, ending a years-long battle by the former president to keep the filings private as his cloudy financial past continues to stoke controversy.
The Republican leader — who is running for the White House again after losing the 2020 election — broke with presidential tradition by refusing to release the records, triggering feverish speculation about what they might contain.
The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines, 24-16, to release six years of the billionaire’s filings — one of its last actions before the reins are handed to the Republicans in January.
Democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett told CNN a summary report would be sent to the full House of Representatives with analysis from the US Congress Joint Committee on Taxation — along with the raw returns.
“That may be delayed for a few days, only to permit time for redacting things like social security numbers… that kind of thing,” he said.
The vote came after committee chairman Richard Neal won access to the documents, covering 2015-20, at the end of a protracted legal fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
“This was not about being punitive, it was not about being malicious — and there were no leaks from the committee,” he said after the vote.
Only a small, select group of lawmakers have seen the returns, which have been subject to privacy laws that made it a felony for anyone to leak details.
The law allows legislators with responsibility over taxation to examine the returns of any American taxpayer however.
Trump’s finances have always been of immense interest to the US public, in part due to the lengths to which he has gone to keep them private, and also because of his lavish pre-White House lifestyle as a property mogul.
The returns could show how much he has given to charity, if he has foreign business concerns or other conflicts of interest, and how his businesses were affected by his presidency and the pandemic.
Trump’s family business was convicted of tax fraud earlier this month, in a case Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said was “about greed and cheating.”
Trump himself was not charged but the company and a separate Trump family entity were convicted of running a 13-year scheme to defraud and evade taxes by falsifying business records.
The New York Times published an investigation of Trump’s finances in 2020 alleging that he paid little or no federal income tax for years before he came to power.
Democrats jumped on the allegation, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying it showed “Trump’s disdain for America’s working families.”
Trump immediately dismissed the accusations as “totally fake news.”
The Ways and Means Committee Republicans had warned ahead of Tuesday’s vote that releasing the returns could set a precedent eroding privacy for everyday Americans and enabling unwarranted investigations of political opponents.
“Democrats will open the door for partisans in Congress to have nearly unlimited power to target political enemies by obtaining and making public their private tax returns,” the panel’s top Republican Kevin Brady said in a statement.
Republicans have argued that the Democrats’ stated purpose for examining the returns — to aid a review of the Internal Revenue Service’s methods for auditing presidents — is disingenuous.
“While Democrats insist it’s not political, their rush to release the returns through a hurried, botched process signifies that their motivations are indeed politicized,” they said in a statement.
Every president from Richard Nixon to Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama released their full tax returns to the public — except Gerald Ford, who released a summary.