Tuesday night, Trump’s tax returns made headlines even before they were released. The first bombshell is the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee said that the IRS didn't audit Trump’s personal tax returns during his first two years in office, despite an agency program that mandates scrutiny of every president's tax information.
This not only calls into question the many claims by Trump and his administration asserting that Trump couldn’t release his taxes because they were being audited (which is also not true, there is no constraint), but it calls into question why Trump was not subjected to an IRS mandate dating back to 1977.
Trump’s returns only began to be audited by the IRS in 2019. That’s when Democrats took control of the House. That’s the actual job of “oversight” – contrary to the idea of investigating the President’s son’s laptop.
“There is virtually nothing known about the IRS's mandatory audit program other than that it is an internal policy and requires mandatory examinations of Presidents and Vice-Presidents,” the New York Times reported.
After all of his claims of his taxes being audited, for some reason, the IRS that Trump weaponized against others did not even do its job to audit the president’s returns for two years.
Trump repeatedly told John Kelly, his White House chief of staff, that he wanted the Internal Revenue Service to investigate his political foes, according to Kelly.
Kelly said Trump wanted to “get the IRS on” former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI Director James Comey.
McCabe and Comey were both picked by the Internal Revenue Service for a supposedly random yet invasive tax audit. In the interest of full disclosure, we at PoliticusUSA had two invasive yet random audits authorized on our company under Trump and were given no reason for the audits, which they claimed were just because they were interested in how digital media works. (The second audit was eventually canceled after they were told that they were auditing returns they had already audited.)
So the government stopped doing the mandated IRS audits of Trump while auditing his enemies.
This looks very directed. The question is by whom.
Was it the IRS director? Trump’s Commissioner of Internal Revenue Charles Rettig was sworn in on October 1, 2018. His term expired on November 12, 2022. Charles Rettig did not take office until the end of 2018. So, it seems likely that it went even higher up (though Rettig might have also implemented direction to weaponize the government against Trump critics, which is also not okay).
This leads us back to Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who violated the law by taking the unprecedented action to lead the effort to block Trump’s tax returns following a Congressional request -- something he did for years.
Mnuchin was in office from 2017 to 2021, one of the very few who made it an entire Trump presidential term. The Treasury Department oversees the IRS.
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Some background from CREW (my bold):
When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin blocked the release of then-President Trump’s tax returns, it was the first time the IRS failed to turn over tax returns following a congressional request, the IRS informed CREW. It is clear that then-Secretary Mnuchin’s actions to block Trump’s tax returns from scrutiny were unprecedented and against the law, and they have set the stage for the Janet Yellen-led Treasury Department to reverse course and release Trump’s taxes to Congress.
The Internal Revenue Code says that, upon a written request of the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Treasury Secretary shall [emphasis added] provide the committee with any return that it requests. House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal did exactly that in 2019, requesting the IRS provide six years of Trump’s tax returns then issuing a subpoena when the IRS did not comply.
Mnuchin famously defied the subpoena by refusing to provide the tax returns, stonewalling Congress for the rest of Trump’s time in office, leading the House to sue to get its subpoena enforced.
So it’s established that Mnuchin’s actions to protect Trump’s tax returns were unprecedented and against the law. He also kept his job for Trump’s full term. Mnuchin’s role in the IRS failure to audit Trump’s taxes as mandated needs to be investigated.
Republicans have been trying to make the argument that if Trump has to share his tax returns like every other president and presidential candidate since Nixon has done, then we will all be targets. But the truth is that under Trump, many of his critics were targets.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) warned that if House Democrats release Trump’s tax returns, it could lead to the release of the tax returns of Supreme Court Justices (!!), which of course given Brett Kavanaugh’s massive debts disappearing and the sudden wealth of several of the justices, would be most welcome. So it’s odd that Republicans are trying \to use that to fearmonger about why we should not see Trump’s tax returns.
We need to see a president’s tax returns for national security purposes and I would argue that for this same reason, we need to see Supreme Court Justices’ returns.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) of the House Ways and Means Committee said that Trump’s tax returns suggest that he had tens of millions of dollars in unsubstantiated claims. Imagine what the fines would be on that amount of fraud if that happened.
“I think you will see tens of millions of dollars in these returns that were claimed without adequate substantiation. The extent to which the IRS made an effort to get that substantiation, I invite you to look at the reports. But I think you’ll be surprised by how little there is, and I have my doubts that another taxpayer could go into audit and provide as little as was provided here and expect to have a completed audit. “
The IRS is required to audit presidential tax returns. They didn’t audit Trump for two years. His critics got viciously audited with invasive audits. It’s time to investigate Steve Mnuchin for his potential role in this unlawful abuse of power by people in the Trump administration.
This is Sarah Jones on the Politicus Pod for PoliticusUSA’s The Daily.