Donald Trump ordered to hand over tax returns to Congress

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Unlike his predecessors, Mr Trump refused to release his tax returns when he ran for the White House - REUTERS
Unlike his predecessors, Mr Trump refused to release his tax returns when he ran for the White House - REUTERS

Donald Trump's tax returns must be handed over to Congress, the Justice Department said on Friday, after a years-long fight by the former president to keep his financial information private.

In a legal memo, the Justice Department said the House Ways and Means Committee, which sought six years of Mr Trump's tax returns in 2019, had a legitimate reason to see them.

Mr Trump broke with decades of political precedent by refusing to release his tax returns when he ran for the White House and had attempted to block Democrats in Congress from obtaining them, calling the requests a political fishing expedition.

Under his presidency, the Treasury and Justice Department resisted subpoenas to hand the records over, forcing the committee to pursue the case in the courts.

Richard Neal, the committee's Democratic chair, had argued the tax filings were needed to understand how the Internal Revenue Service conducts its presidential audits and whether Mr Trump had exerted "undue influence" over the agency.

In a major breakthrough for the committee, the Justice Department said Mr Neal had "invoked sufficient reasons" for the request and ordered the Treasury to hand over the filings.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, called it a "matter of national security".

"The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president," she said.

But the ruling does not necessarily mean that Mr Trump’s tax information will become public, a move which would require a formal vote by the Ways and Means Committee.

It is unclear whether Mr Trump, who had intervened in the case in his personal capacity, will continue to fight the release of the returns in court.

Friday's decision was the second legal setback this year to Mr Trump's extensive efforts to keep his tax filings private.

In February, the Supreme Court declined to block a subpoena of Mr Trump's taxes by a New York prosecutor investigating his business and personal financial dealings.

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