Trump Casa Bianca (La Presse)

Has the Time Come for Trump to Release His Tax Returns?

US President Donald Trump has heard arguments in the Supreme Court on whether he should be allowed to keep his financial records secret. This court case represents the biggest challenge to the US President’s powers since President Richard Nixon was forced to comply with a court’s subpoena for tape recordings made during the Watergate scandal in 1974, and then again in 1997 when the Supreme Court unanimously decided that a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton should proceed.

Trump Has Refused to Release His Tax Records

Throughout his presidency so far, Trump has refused to distribute records that could reveal his family fortunes and the work of his family company.

A ruling is expected within weeks. This issue is significant because Trump is the first US President who has refused to release his tax returns. However, by not doing so the Biden campaign could use them against the President in November.

Should the President be Granted Immunity?

The President’s lawyers have repeatedly tried to block the subpoenas, which are orders to hand over evidence. They argue that Congress had no authority to issue the subpoenas. His lawyers also believe that he should be granted immunity because of his executive position as President.

Lower courts in Washington and New York ruled against Trump in all cases, yet those decisions have been put on hold pending a final court ruling.

Two House of Representatives committees have demanded financial transcripts from two banks that did deals with Trump- Deutsche Bank and Capital One. They also want to see records of his dealings with Mazars, the President’s accountants.

The payments made by Michael Cohen to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels are also being investigated.

This Whole Issue Concerns the Balance of Power

This whole issue raises concerns over the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches in the US, with conservative judges keen to protect the executive branch while liberal judges intend to rein him in. Even though conservative judges make up the majority on the Supreme Court, he should not count on their support as all the judges Nixon and Clinton appointed voted against them.

Trump lawyer William S. Consovoy argued that the Supreme Court has been restricted from conducting investigations into private citizens in the past. In the 1880 case Kilbourn v. Thompson, the Supreme Court blocked the House’s request for records concerning a private real-estate transaction in D.C. because the case was a judicial matter, not a legislative one. During the 1957 case Watkins v. the United States, the justices ruled against the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) when it tried to force a labor organizer to name former Communist Party members.

Trump Must Release His Tax Returns

But as the New Republic’s Matt Ford argues, Trump is not a private citizen anymore. Congress’s request is directed at the Treasury and the IRS, not him personally. For the sake of honesty and transparency, and to avoid being scrutinized on this issue in November, the President should release his tax returns to the House. This is because the House would be able to evaluate the information and they would not have to release his returns to the public, even though people deserve to know about them.

This is not an attempt to harass Trump by his political opponents, but rather an opportunity to ensure that the President is obeying the law. For example, in 2017 Trump reported that his Irish golf business had revenues of $14 million, while a separate report to Irish regulators discovered that the business lost about $2 million.

The returns could also shed some light on Trump’s $400 million spending spree on real-estate during the 2000s. It remains unclear how he obtained that money and why he decided to spend it.

The President is not above the law and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of requesting to see his tax returns, he must release them.