A House committee voted to release Donald Trump’s tax information to the public in the coming days, capping a three-year legal saga initiated by Democrats to obtain and release the former president’s closely held financial documents.
Tuesday’s action by the Ways and Means Committee — over the objections of the panel’s Republicans — comes in the waning days of the House Democratic majority and one day after Trump was referred for criminal prosecution by another House panel.
It wasn’t clear Tuesday when the full set of documents would be available. Committee staff were working through the material to redact personal information such as children, Social Security numbers and account numbers. Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, said that process could take a few days.
The panel, which has an eight-seat Democratic majority, agreed on a party-line vote to release information from Trump’s personal and business tax returns from 2015 to 2020. Democrats first requested the documents in 2019 to help aid an investigation into the annual audit of presidents. After a lengthy court battle, the Ways and Means Committee obtained the financial filings late last month.
“This was not about being punitive, this was not about being malicious,” Neal said about the committee’s decision to pursue and release the information.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the committee’s top Republican, said before the meeting that releasing the information “will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president, and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans.”
Though candidates for the U.S. presidency aren’t required by law to show voters their tax returns, they have done so for decades as a gesture of transparency. Trump was the exception.
Trump has said that, at the advice of his lawyers, he wouldn’t release his tax documents while he’s under audit by the IRS — and he says he has been audited constantly since 2004. There is no law that prevents tax returns under audit from being made public.
Trump has also said there’s “nothing to learn from” his returns, that they are “extremely complex” so people “wouldn’t understand them,” and that Americans who aren’t reporters don’t “care at all” about what’s in them.
The tax code allows the chairmen of the congressional tax committees to request the returns of any taxpayer, including the president. That information can then be made public by a majority vote of the committee. The tax returns have been very closely held because releasing tax information without authorization is a felony punishable by prison time.
Trump’s unwillingness to release the documents has heightened speculation about what information about loans, business ties or his wealth they could contain.
Much of Trump’s financial picture became public two years ago, when weeks ahead of the 2020 election The New York Times published excerpts of Trump’s tax returns that showed he paid minimal taxes, including paying no income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years because of large losses that offset any profits.
The New York Times report said that many of Trump’s businesses are struggling, with him putting more money into the firms than he’s taking out, and that he earned millions abroad during his time in the White House, including from authoritarian-leaning countries such as the Philippines and Turkey. Trump dismissed the reporting as “totally fake news.”
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