Washington, Nov 26 (IANS): The Democrats face a serious dilemma on whether or not to publish former US President Donald Trump's tax records through the Congress, as the Supreme Court has denied Trump's appeal against it, and if the Democrats enjoying majority in the outgoing House don't do it immediately, they can never after Republicans take over the House in January 2023.
The unusual situation has arisen with the Supreme Court's decision recently to deny the motion by Trump's legal team to block public disclosure of Trump's tax records citing executive privilege of a former President. As the apex court cleared the way, the Democrats had already lost the majority in the House of Representatives where Republicans hold 222 seats against 213 seats of the Democrats -- pre-midterms it was 220 vs 212 seats as the matter was pursued.
Public disclosure of Trump's tax records follows relentless investigation by the office of the Attorney General Letitia James and her predecessor Cyrus Vance, who has sued Trump for $250 million in punitive charges plus recovery of unpaid taxes over a period of 10 years when Trump Business systematically evaded taxes, inflating property values to obtain loans fraudulently from banks (Deutsche bank) and advantaging loopholes in tax laws to pay little or no taxes at all while showing a different value of properties in the tax books.
CNN, often described by Trump as Clinton News Network, for its liberal bias, in its report quoting experts said experts have travelled down this road several times before.
"Many times. Remember 2016, during Trump's first presidential run, when the man himself told us that we would see his returns "as soon as the audit was over"? The audit never seemed to end, and an audit would not prohibit him from releasing the returns in any event."
The former Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, who first subpoenaed Trump's tax returns from the accountant Mazars in 2019, and actually got them years -- and multiple legal cases -- later.
The Trump tax returns case is now a battle with the Democratic-controlled Congress which will change to Republican hands in January 2023.
Since 2019, the Democrats House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal relentlessly tried to to get Trump's returns under a statute which empowers him to obtain just that.
"No judge -- not even Trevor N. McFadden, the lower court-Trump appointee, who delayed the matter and gratuitously suggested that Congress could, but should not, publish the returns -- has ever disagreed," the CNN reported.
As Congressman Bill Pascrell said, "Trump's legal team just about managed to delay and drag the matter for 1,329 days since the committee sought the former President's tax returns, nearly as long as the American Civil War."
The matter has now come to fruition with the Supreme Court -- without opinion or dissent -- has summarily rejected Trump's request to block the release of his tax returns.
Congress should have either got the returns by now or is in the process of getting it, reports say. The Democratic majority in the House now is legally entitled to publish Trump's returns. But the Democrats are not the Republicans and are not used to taking hasty decisions. The Democrats are hoping against hope to avoid hasty and vindictive probes from the incoming Republican House, the CNN report said.
The New York Times has been vigorously pursuing Trump's tax information through journalistic means and published a detailed analysis of 20 years' worth of the former President's returns, showing that he paid little or no taxes in most years.
The Manhattan District Attorney's contention is that Trump Business engaged in clear and obvious tax fraud, paying its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg in untaxed, unreported forms, such as through private school tuition payments for his grandchildren.
The Attorney General has argued that there was a pattern to the tax fraud as it was consistent with decades of Trump family's aggressive tax avoidance. The Trump Organisation has rejected claims by the Attorney General's office of Letitia James, a Democrat, as being part of a "witch hunt" by the Democrats.
Weissleberg has confessed to tax frauds in the Trump Business without implicating Trump. He has promised to testify in the case -- it remains to be seen if he will implicate Trump and his grown-up children accused of tax fraud.
If the Democrats don't move against Trump now by publishing his tax returns obtained under the legal process of a Supreme Court ruling, then it's a major opportunity lost, say political observers.
The entire drama of Trump's tax fraud actually calls for wide ranging reforms to plug loopholes in the taxation system, taxation experts say. The House Ways and Means Committee has relied heavily on its roles to monitor the executive branch's administration of the tax laws and on its legislative responsibilities.
The debate is now about what new laws are needed to avoid the Trumpian tax saga. The moral question for the American citizen is, is there something wrong with the tax administration system that a billionaire President can pay no taxes. However, high the post, even if it be President, the American citizen would agree that they should be held accountable.
Tax returns of all Presidents and Vice-Presidents are subject to annual audits under a law passed in 1977 by the Congress.
Did an audit of Trump's tax returns reveal anything? Was Team Trump pressed to defend all of their tax positions? Were adjustments made? Why or why not? What, planning --alleged fraud in the Weissenberg case -- not been checked over the decades? Why did it take the Manhattan District Attorney to find what the IRS did not? These are questions Congress should ask, The CNN said, reflecting largely what it felt was the public perception on the matter.