US & Canada

Democrats fire first salvo at Trump even as House scrutinises his tax returns

With the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats the Senate, the GOP had promised to scrap all the panels appointed by the Democratic party.

Washington: The Democrats have fired their first salvo at ex-President Donald Trump as the Jan 6 panel probing the Capitol Hills insurrection of 2021 said that it would release all evidence with a report on the event even as the House of Representatives began scrutinising Trumps tax returns after a Supreme Court ruling permitted it to do so.

With the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats the Senate, the GOP had promised to scrap all the panels appointed by the Democratic party. The Jan 6 panel pre-empted any such move by deciding to make public its findings in a report alongside the evidence it had collected on Trump’s alleged involvement in the riots from key White House aides in a yearlong investigation.

Trump’s tax returns sought by the Congress were also cleared by the Supreme Court for scrutiny after rejecting the ex-President’s legal team on grounds of executive privilege.

Trump faces a civil suit as well as a criminal suit in two separate but identical cases of tax evasion. The Attorney General of New York (Lower Manhattan), Letitia James, had sued Trump for tax evasion by accusing him of systematically perpetrating a fraud on banks (Deutsche bank) securing loans against inflated property values, avoiding taxes for a decade.

The CFO of Trump Business, Weiselberg, has already been charged with tax evasion enjoying pecuniary benefits and has promised to testify in the case, but has not implicated Trump in the case so far. The AG’s office is also pursuing a criminal case against Trump on the same issue.

Pursuant to this, against a long pending demand for Trump’s tax returns, the Supreme Court rejected the former President’s move to block sending tax returns to the House of Representatives. Trump in his election campaign in 2016 had said he was open to Congress scrutiny once the accounts were audited. The audit never happened and the tax returns never went to Congress, media reports said.

With the Democrat-led Congress in two minds to make public Trump’s tax returns, as the House was retaken by the Republicans, it did not want to sound hasty or be accused of vindictiveness against a former President of another party. But all that changed once the GOP announced that it would launch investigations against incumbent President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, and scrap all panels appointed by the Democrats in the last two years.

The first arrow came from the the Jan 6 Congressional panel which has said it’s planning to release all its evidence and interview transcripts bunched with a final report on the Capitol Hill insurrection.

The panel wanted to ensure that its final report would be released by the month-end so that it is not selectively edited later when the Republicans, who have secured majority in the House, begin the session in January 2023, a member of the panel was quoted as saying by the media.

One of the committee members, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (Democrat), said the report will be released simultaneously with it sharing the same with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reinforce public confidence in the committees’ pains taking work so far.

Lofgren told CNN that the panel is contemplating on what action it should take against a number of Republicans who had refused to answer the subpoenas for testimony issued against them. This includes the Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, tipped to become the Speaker of the House in January next year.

It’s quite clear that the Republicans would like to undermine the work the panel has done so far, she said.

“We’re just going to prevent that. We’re going to release all the information we’ve collected so it cannot be selectively edited and spun,” she said.

Meanwhile, yet another Congressional House committee successfully secured Trump’s six years of tax returns after a long-drawn battle beginning six years ago when Trump became President and promised to provide his business’ tax returns after an audit which never happened. The battle ended in the Supreme Court with the former President’s legal team losing its pleas to block it.


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