Posts tagged with "Tax returns"

NBC News: Chances are slim that Supreme Court will halt handover of Trump’s tax returns

November 6, 2019

President Donald Trump will face strong pushback when he asks the Supreme Court to stop New York prosecutors from getting his tax returns, according to a report by NBC News.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed that he would be willing to hand over his business’ tax returns, but that he was unable to do so, because they were then “under audit.” Now, the explanation for suppressing the filings has changed, but the basic message is the same: Hands off!

Trump’s lawyers have fought back, according to NBC News, arguing that because a sitting president cannot be indicted, he likewise cannot be subject to any steps in a criminal investigation (including evidence collection and documentation).

In rejecting that claim, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Monday that presidential immunity “does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce nonprivileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the president.”

Past Supreme Court rulings have upheld subpoenas directed at presidents, and this time the local prosecutors are seeking documents from the Trump Organization and Trump’s accountants—not directly from the president himself.

For those reasons, among others, NBC says,the Supreme Court might simply decline to hear the president’s appeal—which would leave the appeals court ruling intact and require the tax filings to be turned over.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating whether any state laws were broken in the payment of hush money to two women who claimed they had a sexual relationship with Trump—allegations that the president denied. The prosecutors also are looking into the claim by Trumps former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen that Trump sometimes misstated his financial situation in order to pay lower taxes.

No court has ever ruled that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but that has been the consistent position of the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The logic behind that position can be summarized simply: The president can’t run the country from jail.

The Supreme Court has never ruled that sitting presidents are beyond the reach of criminal investigations, though. In 1974, the court ruled that President Richard Nixon was required to comply with a subpoena directing him to turn over tape recordings of conversations in the White House. In 1975, President Gerald Ford complied with an order to give a deposition in the trial of a woman charged with trying to shoot him. In 1996, President Bill Clinton gave videotaped testimony in two criminal trials.

The Justice Department’s own position is consistent with these rulings, the network news outlet says. A 2000 memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that while sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, they can still be investigated. Even if a president is immune from indictment, “a grand jury could continue to gather evidence throughout the period of immunity, even passing this task down to subsequently impaneled grand juries if necessary.”

A further problem for Trump is that Vance is not seeking any material involving official presidential duties, even though some of it overlaps with the time he’s been in office. For that reason, the president is not making any claim that the material sought by the grand jury is protected by executive privilege.

According to NBC News, the president’s lawyers’ best hope for getting the Supreme Court to take the case may be to argue two points. First, they will likely say that the 1974 ruling in the Nixon case doesn’t apply because that was a subpoena issued for material to be used in a criminal trial of former White House aides. A grand jury subpoena, they might say, is a lower level of need.

And second, they may say that Vance’s request is politically driven. His prosecutors admit that they lifted the wording of the subpoenas directly from subpoenas issued by two House committees controlled by Democrats. Trump’s refusal to make public his tax returns has been a consistent gripe of critics on the left.

At least four justices must vote to hear a case in order for the Supreme Court to grant review. And those four would be reluctant to plunge ahead unless they were reasonably confident they’d get a fifth vote when the case is decided. From the perspective of Trump, and presidential authority in general, it would be better to leave the Second Circuit ruling intact than to have the Supreme Court definitively rule that presidents must comply with such subpoenas.

The lawyers for both Trump and Vance have agreed to submit their court filings promptly. There’s no deadline for the justices to act, but both sides are hoping the court will say by mid-January whether it will take the case.

Research contact: @NBCNews

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

Tussle over taxes: Mnuchin says Treasury Department won’t release Trump’s returns

April 12, 2019

In a move that bowed to the president rather than American values, the Treasury Department refused to hand over the Donald Trump’s tax returns by the April 10 deadline that had been specified by the House Ways and Means Committee, NBC News reports.

On the one hand, the House committee asserted that § 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code clearly states that it is entitled to receive the tax returns.

Indeed, the law dictates: “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary [of the Treasury]shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request….”

On the other hand, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), said that the Treasury was continuing to review Democrats’ request in light of “serious issues” about whether the request is proper.

Neal said in a brief statement only that he had received Mnuchin’s letter and that he was consulting with legal counsel, promising a response “in the coming days.”

In filing a formal request with the Treasury Department last week, Neal had said, “I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal and oversight rights.”

Mnuchin said at a Ways and Means hearing last month that he would protect Trump’s privacy.

 His letter went further, according to NBC News, claiming, “”The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power.” Mnuchin said he was consulting with the Justice Department about the legality and constitutionality of Neal’s request.

Mnuchin said that “for the same reasons,” he intended to supervise the department’s review personally.

The president, himself, has insisted that his tax returns are under audit and cannot be released for that reasons. However, according to the network news outlet, tax experts have said that, even if he is under audit, there’s nothing to stop Trump from releasing his returns.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on Neal’s committee, welcomed Mnuchin’s letter, warning that the request “sets a dangerous precedent.”

“The tax code must not to be used for political fishing expeditions,” Brady said. “The Treasury Department is right to carefully review the privacy impact this request would have on every taxpayer.”

If the request continues to be denied, NBC News said, Democrats could consider legal action.

Separately, Democrats in New York, the president’s home state, introduced a bill in the legislature on Monday that would allow the state to release any state tax return requested by the three congressional committees. The bill would apply only to Trump’s state returns—not to the federal returns that Neal is seeking—but because the president’s businesses are based there, his New York returns are thought to be likely to include much of the same information.

Research contact: @NBCNews