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Tag: trump tax returns

Ruling: IRS Must Deliver Trump Tax Returns To Congressional Committee

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a new opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, officials conclude that the administration is legally obligated to hand over former President Donald Trump's taxes to Congress, as requested.

The announcement is the latest development in Democrats' years-long struggle to see Trump's tax records. He conspicuously refused to make his tax returns public during the 2016 (and 2020) presidential campaign, despite having said he would do so. Many critics believed they would provide evidence of wrongdoing, impropriety, financial failure, or even criminality. So when Democrats took control of Congress in 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee requested his records from the IRS using a statute that allows lawmakers to obtain such information.

But the Trump administration stonewalled, using highly dubious legal reasoning. Now, the Biden administration, and Attorney Merrick Garland's Justice Department in particular, has reversed that decision:

When one of the congressional tax committees requests tax information pursuant to section 6103(f)(1), 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. The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President's tax information. Under section 6103(f)(1), Treasury must furnish the information to the Committee.

The Trump administration had argued that Congress did not have a legitimate legislative purpose to request. But the new OLC document rejects those claims, saying that lawmakers clearly have presented facially valid reasons for requesting the returns, and that is essentially the end of the story:

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. 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f)(1). As the 2019 Opinion recognized, this statutory directive does not exempt the June 2021 Request from the constitutional requirement that congressional demands for information must serve a legitimate legislative purpose. 2019 Opinion at *17–19. The 2019 Opinion went astray, however, 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. Id. at *24–26. The 2019 Opinion also failed to give due weight to the fact that the Committee was acting pursuant to a carefully crafted statute that reflects a judgment by the political branches, going back nearly a century, that the congressional tax committees should have special access to tax information given their roles in overseeing the national tax system. Particularly in light of this special statutory authority, Treasury should conclude that a facially valid tax committee request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose only in exceptional circumstances.

It added:

Even if some individual members of Congress hope to see information from the former President's tax returns disclosed on the public record merely "for the sake of exposure," Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, 140 S. Ct. 2019, 2032 (2020) (internal quotation marks omitted), that would not invalidate the legitimate objectives that the Committee's receipt of the information in question could serve.

However, Trump may still have the opportunity to delay disclosure further. BuzzFeed reporter Zoe Tillman noted that Trump has a short period of time to try to intervene:

Even if the House committee obtains the tax returns, they won't immediately become public. Documents identifying particular people are supposed to be kept by the committee in closed session.

‘Millions Of Pages’: Manhattan DA Now Has Trump Tax Documents

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office now has "millions of pages" of records and documents from former President Donald Trump, including his tax returns. New York prosecutors took possession on Monday, just hours after Trump's last-ditch effort at the U.S. Supreme Court failed, CNN reports. "New York District Attorney Cy Vance is investigating whether Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in tax fraud, insurance fraud and other schemes to defraud," according to CNN, "including potentially providing false information to financial institutions or banks about the value of certain buildings and assets." The documents span years, reportedly from January 2011 to August 2019, and include not only official records and returns, but emails and drafts of documents, which are vital to a fraud investigation in determining intent to commit a crime.

Like A Mob Boss, Trump Wanted Two Favors From ‘His’ Supreme Court

Like a mob boss looking for payback, Donald Trump wanted the Supreme Court to do him two favors heading into the November election: keep him in power and keep him out of jail. To its everlasting credit, the court quickly declined to deliver on the first. Even though Trump had nominated three arch-conservatives to the bench—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—the court rejected his baseless challenges to the results of the election.

It took the court far too long to screw up the courage to decline the second favor, but in a one-sentence order issued on February 22, the court dismissed an emergency petition Trump's lawyers had filed last October to stop Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from enforcing a critical grand jury subpoena issued to the former president's accounting firm—Mazars USA, LLP—as part of a wide-ranging criminal investigationinvolving Trump's business practices.

Pending the court's ruling on the petition, Vance had agreed to pause enforcement of the subpoena. And in the meantime, as the court dithered, New York's five-year statute of limitations continued to tick away, threatening to derail the entire probe.

The investigation can now move forward, full speed.

Of all the potential avenues for indicting Trump now that he is out of office and has lost the immunity from prosecution that comes with the presidency, Vance's probe, which began in 2018, offers the most immediate promise. Although New York grand jury proceedings are secret, it has been widely reported that Vance is investigating Trump not only for the hush money paid to pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, aka "Stormy Daniels," and onetime Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal, but also to determine if other aspects of Trump's private financial dealings have violated state fraud and income tax laws.

The Mazars subpoena is a key component of Vance's inquiry. It demands multiple years of Trump's personal and corporate federal and state tax returns and other financial documentation, dating back to 2011.

As some commentators have noted, information from Mazars could help prove that the Trump Organization used deceptive accounting techniques to inflate the value of assets when applying for bank loans and insurance while understating values to reduce tax bills. Documents from Mazars could also help establish that Trump or members of his family acted with the knowledge and intent needed to prove the commission of financial crimes.

Usually, the Supreme Court rules on emergency petitions expeditiously, often within a matter of weeks, or even days. So, what was behind the inaction in this case? Was there a legitimate reason for the inordinate delay, or were political considerations in play?

The court itself isn't saying. Unlike elected politicians, the justices don't issue press releases or regularly speak to the media. In the absence of an official explanation, the reason for the delay appears to lie in the ideological orientation of the court, which has shifted sharply to the right since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September.

The court's conservatives now outnumber its liberals, 6-3. They determine the substantive outcome of most cases as well as the timing of decisions. But despite the backbone they displayed in rebuffing Trump's 2020 election complaints, the conservatives may not have been willing to abandon Trump to deal with Vance and his prosecutorial team while he was still president.

Whatever the reason, there was no good excuse for the more than four-month delay on the Mazars subpoena, especially because the court was already familiar with the subpoena and the facts and issues it raised. Indeed, the subpoena was the subject of the court's historic 7-2 decision last July, which recognized the authority of a state grand jury to demand documents from a sitting president.

Writing for the majority in last year's case, Chief Justice John Roberts reached deep into the history of U.S. constitutional law, as I have noted before, citing the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall's approval of subpoenas issued to President Thomas Jefferson in the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr. Roberts' opinion was also layered with repeated references to the cases of United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones.

In the process, Roberts rejected both the claim raised by Trump's private attorneys that sitting presidents enjoy "absolute immunity" from state criminal investigations, as well as an alternative contention advanced by the Trump Justice Department that state prosecutors must demonstrate a "heightened" standard of need before gaining access to the president's records.

Roberts and the majority, however, stopped short of ordering compliance with the subpoena. Instead, they remanded the case to the lower federal courts to permit Trump's attorneys to argue the subpoena was overly broad in scope and issued in bad faith. Afterward, in short order, both the federal district court judge assigned to the litigation in Manhattan as well as the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the subpoena, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to resolve the matter once and for all.

Lacking any sound basis to invalidate the subpoena, Trump's attorneys were obviously counting on continued delays to keep their client out of jail. But despite the rejection of their emergency petition, they may not be done trying yet.

According to CNN, the disgraced ex-president's lawyers are preparing to file a new petition with the Supreme Court, requesting a full hearing with oral arguments and a new briefing schedule to review the 2nd Circuit's ruling. If granted, such a petition could impose additional delays and restrictions on Vance's investigation.

Trump, for his part, has responded to the court's order in typical fashion, releasing a statement lambasting the order as a continuation of the "witch hunt" against him. "The Supreme Court never should have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did," the statement asserted. "This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo."

To restore the public's faith in judicial independence, the court should reject any further efforts to undermine, limit or suspend the Vance investigation. In the aftermath of Trump's shameful acquittal in his second Senate impeachment trial, the court should stand aside and force Trump to face accountability.

Now a private citizen, Donald Trump deserves no more deference or protection from the judiciary than any other criminal suspect. It's high time to bring him to justice. Nothing less than the rule of law is at stake.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Trump Enraged By Supreme Court Refusal To Shield His Taxes From Prosecutors

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump came into office having just paid a $20 million fine for duping Americans out of their savings. He was forced to close the Trump Foundation after it became clear that Trump had used the "charity" to buy portraits of himself, renovate a hotel fountain, and pay off a $1 million golf bet. Among other things. And all of that followed Trump's casino paying a record fine after being cited 106 times for money laundering.

Considering how much of the last four years was dedicated to the daily concern that Donald Trump might decide that launching a war on Canada would be good for his ratings on Fox, or that he might just press the wrong big red button when he was thirsty, the most basic thing about Trump became rather easy to overlook. He's a crook. There is no situation in which Trump hasn't been willing to dupe, cheat, and extort his way to another dollar.

So when Donald Trump was gifted, through the sad actions of nature and the even sadder actions of Mitch McConnell, with the opportunity to name three new justices to the Supreme Court, he must have felt an enormous sense of relief. Finally, he must have thought, he would have a buffer between his unending need to lie, cheat, and steal, and the petty concerns of mortals with their laws.

As it turns out … nope.

As CNN reports, Trump's attempts to keep his past tax documents secret foundered on the rocks of the Supreme Court for a second time on Monday when an unsigned decision refused to block access from New York state investigators. Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance is now expected to take delivery of Trump's giant heap of tax records "within the next few days."

It's taken over a year to get to this point, as Trump's endless string of appeals have taken the case up to the Supreme Court twice. There's no doubt Trump will launch still more appeals, suing to stop access on some other ground. Because that—an endless attempt to gum up the process by using his money to gum up the legal system—is how Trump always works. But at this stage finding a judge willing to go along with Trump's request for another stay may be difficult. Not only have three Trump-appointed members of the Supreme Court spiked this ball back on two occasions, the efforts have also failed at the district and appeals levels. Unless Trump can think of some reason why New York taxes and the Manhattan DA need to fight this case out in Texas, it's likely those boxes will start arriving on Vance's desk Real Soon Now.

According to The Hill, Trump is none too happy that his slate of justices didn't have an understanding of the pro quo in the quid he delivered to them. On Monday, Trump issued a statement saying that the Supreme Court should have blocked Manhattan because, "it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo." Honestly, Cuomo probably has other things on his mind at this point, but seeing Trump lose this one might have given the governor a momentary feeling of warmth.

Proving that while he may have endless schemes to rob people blind, his vocabulary consists of just a handful of phrases, Trump described the investigation into his finances as "the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country." He then followed up by using yet more text taken by using scissors and tape, serial killer style, to every speech he's made since November. "I will fight on," said Trump, "just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!"

There's every reason to expect that Trump's taxes are composed entirely of crime. Trump is, after all, the sole owner of roughly 500 companies, many of which exist for the purpose of simply "lending" equipment or funds to other Trump companies. Many of them, like the multiple layers of corporate ownership around his planes, appear to suggest that Trump is taking tax breaks both for owning and leasing the same objects. That's not even getting into schemes like the one in which Trump duped investors into putting him in charge of an effort to buy a bankrupt casino, promptly bankrupted the investment group, bought it all back for pennies on the dollar, then declared bankruptcy. Again. Or when he bought a $28 million yacht, then billed it all to a failing casino. Before declaring bankruptcy.

Trump has used these companies to put layer on layer of corporate insulation between himself and consequences. He gets other people to back his projects, spends lavishly on the gold-plated opulence, then always seems to be on hand to pick up sole ownership when the overly costly project buckles under its own weight. He punishes investors for their faith in him, and lives in the ruins of their dreams. So … yeah, all this might seem worth investigating.

In particular, Vance is looking into the payments Trump made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to cover up their affairs and convince the two women to sign statements that would keep their stories from emerging in advance of the 2016 election. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in counts were Trump was clearly an unindicted co-conspirator. Also, Cohen's testimony repeatedly indicated that there were other issues worth investigating. Several other issues.

So, the Supreme Court allowing this to move forward does seem like the opening day of Justice Season. Only, before visions of Trump wearing clothing even more orange than his bronzer start dancing through anyone's head, there are a few things to remember.

Trump has already been "caught" over and over. See above where Trump was found to have swindled retired couples out of their last dimes, used money that was supposed to go to disabled vets to commission self-portraits, and was convicted of money laundering 106 times. Finding that Donald Trump has committed a crime is the legal equivalent of discovering that there is a "y" in the word "day."

It would be nice to think that Vance, or New York Attorney General Letitia James, were going to grab Trump by his ludicrous comb-over and drag him straight to a cell in some state prison that does not even have a putting green. But it's extremely unlikely. Because the laws really are set up so that Trump's 500 legal fictions provide a buffer between his actions and consequences. Should it turn out that Trump Airline's Moving and Storage Leasing Agency has stolen millions in taxpayer funds by claiming false deductions and purposefully misreporting values of everything from helicopters to helipad-topped skyscrapers, the likely outcome is that one of these fictional entities will pay a fine. Should Trump be charged in connection with the crimes committed by Cohen, expect the worst outcome to be a flood of fundraising emails. "Help me fight off my Democratic enemies in the greatest Political Witch Hunt Ever in the History of ..." Etc.

After all, it's not like he stole $9. He's a wealthy white guy who stole tens of millions, extorted women to hide his infidelities, and offered up the nation on a platter to win an election. That's so, so different.

Trump may have lost this round in the Supreme Court because the clear letter of the law made it difficult to ignore his efforts to cover up his crimes. Should it ever come to it, expect that same court to discover that the law protects Trump from the consequences.

Journalists Will Decide Whether Trump Tax Revelations Matter

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The New York Times report on President Donald Trump's taxes dropped on Sunday night like an atomic bomb.

The investigation, based on tax documents the paper obtained that Trump has hidden from the public, revealed that the president has paid no federal income tax for much of the past two decades, including a bill of only $750 in the first year of his presidency; that he achieved such low payments by reporting massive losses at his signature businesses and through potentially fraudulent methods; that he's kept those businesses afloat in part with money obtained from foreign and domestic sources hoping to receive preferential treatment from the government; and that he has personally guaranteed hundreds of billions of dollars in loans that will come due over the next few years.

The report, commentators have noted, shows that Trump's image is a sham and that his perilous financial status has made him a national security threat.

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Like Nixon, Trump Evades Taxes — But The Striking Similarities Only Begin There

Donald Trump's tax returns are the talk of the town, and news outlets and the Twittersphere are humming with comparisons to another White House occupant plagued by tax scandals: Richard Nixon.

"'People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,' Nixon said," tweeted Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell on Monday. "The comment wasn't about Watergate, but rather funny business in his tax returns."

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How Working Stiffs Might Think About Trump’s $750 Tax Bill

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The $750 in federal income taxes that Donald Trump paid in 2016 and 2017 is an attention-grabbing number—in large part because $750 is a number that a lot of people can wrap their heads around. It's not on the massive scale of federal budget numbers or even of only-for-billionaires expenditures. For people making minimum wage or just above, it may in fact be their annual tax bill. "We're talking about someone who works at a McDonald's, and not someone who is managing it," Joseph Bankman, a tax law expert at Stanford Law School, told The Washington Post. "This is an hourly worker at a fast-food restaurant."

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Bombshell: NY Times Got Trump Tax Returns — And He Paid Almost Nothing

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the same year he told his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, during a presidential debate not paying taxes "makes me smart."

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