Donald Trump updates

The US Department of Justice has told the Treasury department it must hand over Donald Trump’s tax returns to Congress, the latest twist in the long-running stand-off over the former president’s financial records.

The legal opinion sent to the Treasury, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service, said the department “must furnish” Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means committee, which has been requesting them since 2019.

“When one of the congressional tax committees requests tax information . . . and has invoked facially valid reasons for its request, the executive branch should conclude that the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose only in exceptional circumstances,” the justice department said.

Trump’s tax returns have been the subject of intense legal and political wrangling ever since he first ran for president and while he was in office. Unlike other presidents and presidential candidates, Trump refused to release his financial records.

Once Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2019, they sought to gain access to his tax returns, but were rebuffed by Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary during his administration.

The Treasury, which is now run by Janet Yellen, did not immediately reply with a comment on the justice department’s request.

Richard Neal, the chair of the Ways and Means committee, who had demanded Trump’s returns and filed a lawsuit compelling their release to the panel said the “case was very strong and the law is on our side”.

In 2019, William Consovoy, a lawyer for the then president, dismissed Neal’s attempts to secure the release of the tax returns as “a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech”.

Consovoy warned at the time that handing over the filings would establish “a dangerous precedent”.

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