Former US president Donald Trump moved Wednesday to block the Treasury from handing over years of his tax records to a congressional committee, which some believe could expose abuse of tax laws.
In a Washington court filing Trump's lawyers objected to a Justice Department order last week that the Treasury, after stalling for years, needed to provide the House Ways and Means Committee with six years of records that Trump has long refused to make public.
The lawyers argue that while the committee claims to be investigating how the Internal Revenue Service handles cases like Trump's -- the former president said for years that his taxes were under audit -- in fact the request is driven by politics.
The aim of the Democratic-controlled panel, the filing says, "is to expose the private tax information of one individual -- President Trump -- for political gain."
"The requests single out President Trump because he is a Republican and a political opponent," it adds.
"They were made to retaliate against President Trump because of his policy positions, his political beliefs and his protected speech, including the positions he took during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns," it said.
The US Justice Department ordered the Treasury on Friday to hand Trump's tax records to the committee, which subpoenaed them in 2019.
Committee chairman Richard Neal had argued that his members needed the returns to understand how the IRS conducts its presidential audits and whether Trump had exerted "undue influence" over the agency.
Trump claimed for years that he could not make the records public because they were under audit, and when he was president, the Republican-controlled Treasury and Justice Department sided with him on the issue.
Both departments are now led by Democrats, and the Justice Department argued last week that the committee had a legitimate interest in seeing Trump's records.
Some suspect that the records would show the billionaire property tycoon manipulated the tax code to pay very little over a long period.
Trump is under investigation in New York for tax fraud and other wrongdoings relating to the financial activities of his Trump Organization.
In February the Supreme Court declined to block a subpoena of Trump's taxes by a New York prosecutors.
All US presidents since Richard Nixon, who took office in 1969, have made public their tax and asset records.
A top Justice Department official drafted a resignation letter in 2021, fearing that then-President Donald Trump would decide to fire acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, POLITICO reports.
"This evening, after Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the President's direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice's law enforcement powers for improper ends, the President removed Jeff from the Department," Patrick Hovakimian wrote in his letter that was ultimately never sent. "PADAG Rich Donoghue and I resign from the Department, effective immediately."
"The decision of whether and when to resign and whether the ends of justice are best served by resigning is a highly individual question, informed by personal and family circumstances," he continued. "Jeff asked me to pass on to each of you that whatever your own decision, he knows you will adhere always to the highest standards of justice and act always – and only – in the interests of the United States."
Hovakimian drafted the letter on Jan. 3, 2021, announcing his resignation, along with that of the DOJ's second-in-command, Richard Donoghue, as Trump's rhetoric targeting Jeff Rosen was ramping up. Trump ultimately didn't fire Rosen.
"The fact that Trump-era DOJ officials went that far highlights the serious pressures they faced in the waning days of the administration as the former president tried to overturn his loss in the 2020 election," POLITICO reports.
Read the full report over at POLITICO.
Lauded nationwide last year for his no-nonsense coronavirus briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was clinging to his political life Wednesday as prosecutors opened criminal inquiries into sexual harassment allegations against the powerful Democrat.
As Donald Trump sowed chaos last spring, Cuomo's televised pandemic press conferences comforted Americans and even led to clamor for a presidential run, but the 63-year-old now finds himself a political pariah.
New York state assembly Democrats are poised to complete an impeachment inquiry soon while three district attorneys are pursuing criminal investigations after Tuesday's bombshell report found Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.
"If you assault a woman, you do something against her will sexually, that's criminal. I think he should be charged," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, told CBS on Wednesday.
The investigation concluded that Cuomo engaged in "unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous comments of a suggestive sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women."
It detailed allegations by 11 women that painted "a picture of a pattern of abusive behavior by Cuomo and his senior staff," said state Attorney General Letitia James said, announcing the findings.
The three-term governor came out fighting. He insisted he never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances and suggested he would not step down in a pre-recorded statement.
But pressure continued to build on Cuomo Wednesday as prosecutors in Manhattan and Westchester County joined those in Albany in opening a criminal inquiry and requesting documents from James's investigation, which was only civil in nature.
The Westchester case relates to an allegation that Cuomo inappropriately touched a state trooper assigned to his protective detail on her stomach and hip.
A statement from the Albany District Attorney late Tuesday called on any alleged victims to come forward.
Cuomo has politics in his blood -- his father Mario Cuomo served three terms as the Democratic governor of New York state between 1983 and 1994 -- and is unlikely to go quietly.
He has long been part of the Democratic Party's moderate establishment: in 1990, Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy -- daughter of the late US Attorney General Robert Kennedy. They divorced 15 years later.
Cuomo received praise for pushing through the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York in 2011 and for raising the state's minimum wage to $15 in December 2019.
But he has increasingly clashed with left-wing progressives in the party in recent years who have long accused him of governing with hectoring, bulldog-like tactics.
- Impeachment -
Allies, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York City's likely next mayor, Eric Adams, quickly deserted him following the explosive report.
And on Wednesday The New York Times editorial board called on him to quit.
"He wants to survive because the only thing that matters to Andrew Cuomo is being governor of New York," Lincoln Mitchell, politics expert at Columbia University, told AFP.
"But he's going to have a tough time when the President of the United States, who is the leader of your party, says that he should no longer be in office."
After Cuomo made it clear he had no plans to step down voluntarily, the Democratic speaker of New York's state assembly, Carl Heastie, said an impeachment investigation would be concluded "as quickly as possible."
"He can no longer remain in office," Heastie said.
If the lower house assembly approves impeachment articles, which now seems all but certain, Cuomo would become the first New York governor to be impeached in more than a century.
Cuomo would likely have to temporarily step down as members of the senate and several judges preside over the trial. At least two thirds of jurors must vote to convict to permanently remove him from office.
Although he has not officially announced a run, Cuomo is believed to covet a fourth term as governor, to surpass his father.
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