The Department of Justice said on Friday that the Internal Revenue Service must turn over the income tax records of former president Donald Trump to Congress.
On Friday, the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo stating that the Treasury Department was required to defer to the congressional committee and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must turn over former president Donald Trump’s tax records to the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee, The Hill reported.
In the opinion of the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel, the House Ways and Means Committee had given “sufficient reasons” for requesting the information, NBC reported.
“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,” the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen wrote in the 39-page memo.
“The executive branch should conclude that the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose only in exceptional circumstances,” the Office of Legal Counsel said, pointing to the fact that the request came from a congressional tax committee.
The new ruling from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel represents a reversal from the position it took in 2019, when it agreed with the Trump administration, stating at the time, that Congress lacked a legitimate legislative purpose. It took the stance that request amounted to nothing more than an attempt at embarrassing then-President trump.
In Friday’s ruling, the legal office said its 2019 finding “went astray” in telling the executive branch that it should closely scrutinize the stated justifications coming from Congress. The DOJ said it failed to give sufficient deference to another branch of the government.
Trump’s personal and business tax records were initially requested by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) in 2019. Neal had also subpoenaed former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin and the head of the IRS to facilitate the release of the records. However, the Trump administration refused to comply with both the request and subpoenas.
In turn, the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in federal district court in July 2019 against the IRS and the Department of the Treasury to secure access to Trump’s tax returns.