GOP attacks Dems’ probe of Trump’s tax returns on eve of their release

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décembre 29, 2022

A day before former President Donald Trump’s tax returns see the light of day, Republicans made a last-minute push to discredit the investigation, saying Democrats cherry-picked information from IRS documents to spin a false narrative.

The preemptive strike underlined the political stakes involved in the release of the information — which Trump kept hidden during his 2016 campaign and during his four years in office — as the real estate mogul plots a possible comeback in 2024.

GOP aides told reporters Thursday that Democrats planned to withhold 1,100 electronic files on the audits of Trump that were used as the basis of a report released last week describing how Trump’s returns weren’t selected for audit during the first two years of his presidency. The IRS has a policy of auditing all presidents.

“We were a bit surprised when the materials did not contain the audit materials,” a GOP aide said of the documents to be sent to the House on Friday and released. “So you only have the majority’s interpretation of them. They selected limited pieces of audit materials; they didn’t provide very many source documents that would allow you to evaluate for yourself whether their interpretations are fair.”

The GOP aides said they expect the documents to include six years of individual returns jointly filed by Trump and his wife, Melania, in addition to the forms for several business entities that Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) zeroed in on for scrutiny. The aides also expect a report from the Democratic majority; another, shorter process report from Democrats; and dissenting views from Republicans.

The materials will also include a transcript of the closed-door meeting that occurred last week in which the Ways and Means Committee deliberated on whether to make Trump’s returns public — a process that one GOP aide called “a total mess.”

A Democratic spokesperson said Republicans reviewed all the files in the Ways and Means report in just nine hours. GOP tax writers had access to the same files Democrats had but never requested that additional information, such as the audit materials, be included in Friday’s release

“The Committee’s investigation exposed the truth and the facts are simple. The IRS failed to audit the former President under the mandatory audit program, and only began once Chairman Neal got involved,” a spokesperson for committee Democrats said.

Neal obtained the returns after a long legal battle that culminated in a Supreme Court decision in November that ended Trump’s effort to keep them shielded. Trump had challenged Neal’s ability to demand the returns under a little-used law that allows the heads of Congress’ tax writing committees to examine anyone’s private tax information.

Republicans have long called the Democrats’ effort a sham that threatens to set off a tit-for-tat of congressional majorities releasing the tax information of political foes.

Democrats counter that their investigation is larger than Trump and is really about accountability for the country’s most powerful person. The IRS presidential audit program is broken, Democrats say, and Trump’s taxes contain several red flags involving questionable business losses, among other things.

The GOP aides told reporters the Democrats’ initial report didn’t reflect an understanding of how audits of people with complex taxes work. They also noted that Trump consented to extend the three-year legal limit for auditing filed returns.

“No real surprises for those who know how these systems and processes work,” a GOP aide said of the audits. “I saw nothing here that was out of the ordinary.”

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