November 6, 2019 / 7:40 PM / 2 months ago

EXPLAINER-Ways Trump’s tax returns could come to light

    By Brendan Pierson
    NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump
broke with a decades-long tradition of U.S. presidential
candidates by not releasing his tax returns during his campaign,
prompting state and congressional investigators to seek the
returns through other means.
    On Thursday, Trump is due to file a petition urging the U.S.
Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by a federal appeals court in
Manhattan allowing his longtime accounting firm, Mazars LLP, to
hand eight years of his returns over to New York prosecutors.
    The case is one of several legal battles in which
investigators are seeking access to Trump's tax returns. Below
are four ways they could succeed.
    1. Mazars could hand the returns over to the Democratic-led
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee.
    The committee subpoenaed Mazars for Trump's financial
records, including tax returns, in April. It said the committee
said it needed the records to determine if Trump - whose
business interests have ranged from real estate and golf courses
to a reality TV show - complied with laws requiring disclosure
of his assets, and to assess whether those laws need to be
    Trump sued in April, arguing that the committee's subpoena
was politically motivated and exceeded limits on congressional
investigative power.
    A federal district court and an appeals court in Washington
have both upheld the committee's authority to enforce the
subpoena. On Wednesday, the appeals court declined to reconsider
its ruling, setting the stage for an appeal to the Supreme

    2. Mazars could give the returns to New York state
    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance issued a subpoena to
Mazars in August, seeking eight years of Trump's returns as part
of a criminal investigation. Trump's lawyers sued to block the
subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had
absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
    The investigation involves alleged hush money payments made
shortly before the 2016 presidential election to two women who
have said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he
    Last month, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Trump
was not immune from investigation, and on Nov. 4, an appeals
court upheld that ruling, prompting Trump's expected petition to
the Supreme Court on Thursday.             
    Vance's office has agreed not to enforce the subpoena while
the appeal is pending. It has also said that if it obtains the
returns, they will remain confidential.
    3. The House Ways and Means Committee could get the tax
returns from the U.S. Treasury Department.
    U.S. Representative Richard Neal, chair of the committee,
asked the Treasury Department to turn over six years of Trump's
tax returns in April. Federal law states that the Treasury
"shall furnish" tax returns to Congress upon request. 
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to hand
over Trump's returns. The committee in July filed a lawsuit in
federal court in Washington, D.C. seeking to compel the Treasury
to comply. In August, the judge overseeing the case declined to
fast-track the litigation, meaning the dispute is likely to
extend well into 2020.
    4. States could obtain the returns through new laws.   
    Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom in July signed a
law requiring presidential candidates to release five years of
tax returns in order to appear on a nominating ballot in the
    Trump sued to block the law, saying it violated the U.S.
Constitution. A federal judge sided with the president last
month, and the law remains in limbo while the state appeals.
    Similarly, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in July
signed a law requiring state authorities to hand state tax
returns over to Congress. However, Neal has said the law may not
be relevant to his inquiry, which focuses on Trump's federal
    Trump sued New York's attorney general and tax commissioner
in Washington federal court over the law, but a judge on Monday
ruled he did not have jurisdiction over the state officials and
that Trump would have to sue them in New York.             

 (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill
Berkrot and Lisa Shumaker)
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