Trump files lawsuit to stop Democrats obtaining his tax returns, citing 'presidential harassment'

Legislation passed in New York state makes returns available to House committee

Andrew Buncombe
Tuesday 23 July 2019 23:42
Donald Trump's tax return in numbers

Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit to try to stop Democrats on Capitol Hill obtaining his New York state tax returns - the latest twist in the president’s battle to stop his financial records being made public.

Presidents dating back to Gerald Ford have released all or part of their tax returns as an attempt to display transparency to voters about their sources of income.

Yet Mr Trump has long declined to do so, claiming – contrary to what many independent experts say – he cannot release his federal tax returns because they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS.

In an attempt to try to force the president’s hand, the state of New York earlier this month passed a law that would provide Mr Trump’s state returns to the Democratic-controlled ways and means committee of the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Mr Trump sued the committee and officials in New York, claiming the president’s constitutional rights were being breached.

“We have filed a lawsuit today in our ongoing efforts to end presidential harassment,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers.

“The targeting of the president by the House ways and means committee, the New York attorney general, and a New York tax official, violates article one of the US constitution. The harassment tactics lack a legitimate legislative purpose. The actions taken by the House and New York officials are nothing more than political retribution.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says the battle for President Trump's tax returns might ultimately have to be decided in court

The lawsuit referred to a media report that said the committee’s chairman, Democratic congressman Richard Neal, was mulling making a request under the law, which New York could nearly instantaneously fulfil.

“President Trump was thus forced to bring this lawsuit to safeguard his legal rights,” his lawyers wrote.

Previously, the treasury department had denied the committee’s request for Mr Trump’s federal returns, despite the existence of a law that says the department “shall furnish” such records to the panel if requested. The department said the committee had no legitimate purpose for reviewing Mr Trump’s returns.

The committee has get to comment on the lawsuits.

New York attorney general Letitia James, said in a statement she was confident the state’s law was legal. “We will vigorously defend it against any court challenge,” she said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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