Former President Trump’s tax returns must be released to Congress following a Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee request, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Friday, July 30.
In a memorandum opinion from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, Acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen said the Treasury Department must turn over the former president’s tax returns to the committee.
Johnsen explained that when a congressional tax committee requests tax information and has invoked facially valid reasons for its request, the executive branch should conclude that the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose only in exceptional circumstances. But the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting Trump’s tax information, so the Treasury Department must furnish the information to the committee.
According to The Hill, the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has requested Trump’s personal and business tax returns since 2019.
But under the Trump administration, the Treasury Department refused that request. The Department of Justice at that time said that refusal did not violate the law, ruling in 2019 that Neal’s committee was “disingenuous about its true objective” in seeking Trump’s returns, asserting Neal appeared prepared to “expose” the documents if they were obtained.
In Friday’s memo, Johnsen, now under the Biden administration, said that decision was wrong.
“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,’” Johnsen wrote.
The new memo from the Biden administration says that the opinion issued during the Trump administration was incorrect “in suggesting that the Executive Branch should closely scrutinize the Committee’s stated justifications for its requests in a manner that failed to accord the respect and deference due a coordinate branch of government.”
The Biden administration’s opinion does not spell the end for the litigation over Trump’s tax return request.