Can Congress get Trump's tax records

Highly explosive tax litigation : Trump has to disclose tax returns - but not to everyone

The US Supreme Court is likely to make both sides of the litigation losers: Donald Trump and the Democrats. After hearing their arguments in the Supreme Court on Tuesday as to whether the president should hand out his financial records, legal experts from major US media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post are largely in agreement in their forecast. The questions posed by the nine constitutional judges suggest that they do not accept the Trump attorneys' argument that a president enjoys extensive immunity during his tenure, which generally protects him from investigations by courts and parliamentary committees. Depending on the case, he too must hand over documents.

Citizens do not get the information before the election

However, the Democrats cannot have high hopes that they will achieve their goal, either. They want to ensure that the allegedly explosive documents are made available to the public before the election in November. They are betting that this would damage Trump's reputation and make his re-election less likely.

Three congressional committees and a court in New York had requested documents from Trump regarding his personal taxes and the finances of his companies. The President refused. Fox News, which is related to Trump, points out that the chief judges seem to question and narrowly limit the rights of Congress to control the president.

Here, too, the indications result from the inquiries of the highest judges. They indicate that the majority of them tend to have Trump hand over the documents to a New York district court, but not to the investigative committees of Congress, because those requesting the documents exceed their control powers.

That would have consequences for the potential publication. If the Congress got hold of the documents, the contents would be discussed publicly. If they only go to the court in New York, they will remain confidential and will only be made available to the jury and the judge there. In addition, it looks like that a potential handover to the New Yorker would only take place after the election, because the Supreme Court presumably specifies further procedural steps for this court, which delay the timing. If that happens, Trump can breathe a sigh of relief: The documents will not be public before the November election.

Historical parallels to McCarthy, Watergate and Lewinsky

Far-reaching historical parallels were drawn at the hearing: The Supreme Court had forced President Richard Nixon to hand over the tapes in the "Watergate" affair. And to tell President Bill Clinton about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. How far does the President's Executive Privilege go and where does it end?

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The chief judges at times argued very differently than the alleged ideological division of the Supreme Court into conservative Trump-inclined and progressive Trump-averse members. Liberal Stephen Breyer said he had concerns about giving congressional committees permission to conduct partisan investigations. He referred to the US experience with the communist hunt in the 1950s, when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy took action in congressional committees of inquiry against leftists over allegedly threatened communist infiltration of the US.

Trump's dealings with Deutsche Bank

The litigation is highly explosive for several reasons. For decades it has been customary for presidential candidates to disclose their financial circumstances and also their tax returns. But there is no legal obligation to do so. Trump had demanded this transparency from competitors in the election campaign and, in turn, promised that he would do so. He repeatedly delayed the fulfillment of his promise by claiming that a tax audit was taking place and that he could only disclose the documents afterwards. Finally he withdrew his acceptance.

Since then, there has been speculation whether Trump has something to hide that would harm him politically, and what that could be? Among other things, it concerns his behavior in the Russia affair. One suspicion concerns his dealings with Deutsche Bank. They are also the subject of legal proceedings in New York. Deutsche Bank had granted him millions in loans for his real estate business when other financial institutions were no longer willing to do so. Some observers suspect that Russian black money was transferred to the USA via Deutsche Bank and was thus "washed white". Michael Wolff also hinted at this in his revelatory book "Fire and Fury".

What is Trump hiding: is he not a billionaire? Does he hardly pay taxes?

Other attempts at explanation are that if it were published it would come out that Trump is not as rich as he claims. Not a billionaire, anyway. And that he is not as successful economically as he claims. That would damage the image he cultivates of being a brilliant "dealmaker".

It could also hurt him if a public analysis of his tax documents revealed that he hardly pays taxes despite high income.

Trump's financial records are unlikely to be made public, at least not before the election. But there is one thing that the court cases have achieved through several instances up to the Supreme Court: The question of why Trump does not want to hand out his tax documents is regularly discussed in the course of reporting. And is therefore part of the election campaign.

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