Why would Congress make Trump's tax returns public?

It’s not the “only” reason. As stated above, there is certainly a public interest in the financial situation of public figures, even if that is to the extent of “somewhat dodgy practices but no clear-cut legal issues”.

Balancing the public interest against private rights of citizens is one of the purposes of government, and the Committee seems to be seriously and conscientiously weighing the matter.

What’s the difference between

and harming someone politically?


Voters deserve to know certain things about people who vie to lead them, which is why every other presidential candidate has voluntarily released their tax records. Trump has already announced his intent to run for president again, but he’s refused to provide this transparency.

If there’s something in his tax records that’s harmful politically, that’s on him – not Congress.

Dude you could have turned you returns into NFTs and made $$$ . . . or what ever it is you get from selling your NFTs.

I agree; we should be able to evaluate a presidential candidate’s honesty, and to know what their financial interests are.

Not entirely. Ideally, someone who refused to voluntarily release their returns would be held to account by the public just for failing to disclose. That doesn’t make it Congress’s responsibility to force that disclosure.

You can try to dress it up, or rephrase it however you want, but you’re saying that the taxes should be released to discourage people from voting for Trump. That is trying to harm him politically.

The difference is the intent.

The result of an action may end up harming a figure politically but that is not always the goal.

If I found out somebody in my family murdered a hitchhiker and hid the body, I would report the crime and the body because it is the right thing to do but not necessarily to hurt my family member, which it would also do. The result of reporting would also have that effect, but it wouldn’t be the primary purpose.

Likewise, publicly releasing the returns may also have the effect of harming Trump’s political career, but that would not necessarily be the point of doing so.

If nothing is illegal/unlawful/unethical in the returns how does releasing them in an improper way harm Trump?

Yes, I do hope it will harm Trump politically.

But I do not believe that that’s why the tax records should be released – to discourage people from voting for him. I believe they should be released to give voters a more complete, more accurate picture of who he is and what kinds of businesses he runs.

If that picture discourages people from voting for him, so be it. But who knows? Some of the information may make him look better to some people.

My actual guess is that it won’t change anyone’s mind one way or the other.

Depends on which set of books he used to prepare them.

Sure, you’d report the crime to the police so they could investigate and bring the guilty party to justice. But suppose you didn’t tell the police. Instead, you announce at the next family get-together that one of your relatives is a murderer. What possible motive can you have other than to get them ostracized within the family.

I am no fan of Trump. I think he’s a childish, corrupt, dishonest windbag who makes and breaks promises as easily as the rest of us breathe. His failure to disclose his taxes while running is just one of a hundred things that should have made it impossible for him to get elected. If Congress, or any of the states, wish to pass laws that enforce greater transparency from political candidates, including release of their tax returns, I’d be all for it. I just don’t think it’s the proper role of one congressional committee to decide, ad hoc, to release information that would otherwise be confidential.

Yep. There will be nothing illegal on the face of the tax returns. They’ll look entirely proper. It’s only after checking and comparing with other known information that investigators can learn if something is amiss.

But it could show income from, or payments to, some entity that raises concerns. Eventually, we’ll know.

I’ve never understood why we’d want Trump’s personal taxes without also have the corporate tax returns, which is where I presume most of the shenanigans are concealed.

Well, ok, clearly you can construct a hypothetical situation where that is the only goal. How does that relate here?

That’s clearly not the case here. A Congressional committee is not a family Christmas dinner.

There are legitimate reasons that a governmental body would release records involving somebody who was and could again be President. It is possible the committee is not basing its decision (whatever it is) on one of those legitimate reasons, but the idea there are no other possible motives is total bunk.

Look, the only reason Trump or anyone else has the right to not have their tax returns be made public is that Congress has passed a law saying so. Nothing stops Congress from simply passing a law exempting Trump specifically from the privacy laws, so why should it be a problem if they achieve the same ends in a less direct way? Of course it’s politically motivated, they’re politicians. If you disagree with their (hypothetical future) decision to release the documents, the remedy is also political; you can try to vote them out of office (but I really hope you wouldn’t).

There’s a potential ethical slippery slope here, but there’s a big difference between “releasing the taxes of your political opponents” and “releasing the taxes of people you are actively urging the Department of Justice to prosecute, based on legitimate, well-grounded suspicions”.

I already said that if the Congressional committee saw evidence of a crime in Trump’s returns, they could forward them to whatever law enforcement organization would be in a position to investigate and prosecute, just as you would report a murderer in your family to the police.

What’s being discussed here is releasing the returns to the public; akin to fingering a murderer before his family. It’s not a criminal referral; all it can do is affect someone’s popularity.

The real difference between the two situations is the expectation of privacy. There’s no rule to prevent you from telling your family that there is a killer in their midst. They might even be thankful. I certainly wouldn’t ask grandma to watch my kids for an afternoon if I found out she was a cold-blooded killer. (I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump to give me two fives for a ten.)

Tax returns are different. As I understand it, they meant to be confidential. If someone can look up the statute, let me know if it ends with “…unless the Ways and Means Committee decides not to.”

How kind of the committee to consider helping Trump fulfill his promise to release his tax returns. Gives me warm holiday feelings, it does.

I’ll observe that, all along, Congress’s argument for being permitted to access the returns has been that such access would serve a legislative purpose which cannot be achieved without such access. I’m not prepared to intelligently discuss the specific nature of such a legislative purpose, but I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that such has been shown to exist (to the satisfaction of the judicial system).

What I don’t believe has been shown is how any such legislative purpose would be served by the release of the returns for inspection by the general public.

Hot damn!

One reasonably loses this expectation when one runs for President post-1965.

If that were the case, the statute should say so.