US lawmakers have voted to make Donald Trump’s tax returns public, ending a years-long battle by the former president to keep the returns private as his murky financial past continues to fuel controversy.
The Republican Party leader – who is running again for the White House after losing the 2020 election – broke with presidential tradition by refusing to release the documents, sparking feverish speculation about what they might contain.
The Ways and Means Committee of the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted along party lines, 24-16, to release six years of the billionaire’s documents, one of its latest actions before the reins are handed over to Republicans in January, he said. reported AFP.
Democrat Congressman Lloyd Doggett told CNN that a summary report would be sent to the entire House of Representatives with the analysis of the US Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, along with the raw returns.
“It could be delayed a few days, just to allow time to draw up things like social security numbers…that sort of thing,” he said.
The vote came after commission chairman Richard Neal gained access to the documents, covering the 2015-20 period, following a lengthy legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
“It wasn’t about being punitive, it wasn’t about being harmful — and there were no leaks from the commission,” he said after the vote.
Only a select handful of lawmakers have seen the returns, who have been subject to privacy laws that have made it a crime for anyone to divulge details.
However, the law allows tax lawmakers to examine the returns of any American taxpayer.
Trump’s finances have always been of immense interest to the U.S. public, in part because of what he’s done to keep them private, and also because of his lavish lifestyle before the White House as a property mogul.
Returns could show how much he has donated to charity, whether he has overseas business interests or other conflicts of interest, and how his businesses have been impacted by his presidency and the pandemic.
Mr. 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 has not been charged, but the company and a separate Trump family entity have been convicted of operating a 13-year scheme to defraud and evade taxes by forging business documents.
The New York Times published an investigation into Trump’s finances in 2020, claiming he paid little or no federal income taxes for years before coming to power.
Democrats jumped at the charge, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying it showed “Trump’s contempt for America’s working families.”
Trump immediately dismissed the allegations as “totally fake news.”
Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee had warned ahead of Tuesday’s vote that the release of the returns could set a precedent by eroding privacy for ordinary Americans and allowing 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 their private tax returns public,” Republican top panelist Kevin Brady said in a statement.
Republicans have argued that the Democrats’ stated purpose of examining returns — to aid a review of the Internal Revenue Service’s methods for auditing presidents — is false.
“While Democrats insist it’s not political, their rush to release the returns through a rushed and botched process means their motives are indeed politicized,” they said in a statement.
Every president, from Richard Nixon to Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, has released their full tax returns to the public, except Gerald Ford, who has released a summary.