© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for president in the 2024 election during an event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Moira Warburton and Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives committee met on Tuesday to decide whether to release publicly details of Donald Trump’s tax returns, which could lead to more unwelcome scrutiny for the former president as he mounts another White House bid.
The House Ways and Means Committee went into a closed-door meeting to discuss the documents secured after a years-long court fight, but it is unclear whether the panel will decide to make them public. Democrats have little time to act, as Trump’s Republicans are due to take control of the House in January.
Trump, unlike previous presidential candidates, refused to make his tax returns public as he sought to keep secret the details of his wealth and the activities of his real estate company, the Trump Organization, and he fought Democrats’ efforts to get access to them.
Candidates are not required by law to release their tax returns, but previous presidential hopefuls of both parties have voluntarily done so for several decades.
Trump’s tax returns are still subject to confidentiality restrictions, but Democrats who control the committee could vote to make some details public.
Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee have said they need to see those records to assess whether the Internal Revenue Service is properly auditing presidential tax returns, and to gauge whether new legislation is needed. The committee’s chairman, Representative Richard Neal, has not said whether he supports making them public.
Another House committee on Monday asked federal prosecutors to prosecute Trump for sparking the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021. Republicans are expected to dissolve or redirect that panel when they take control of the chamber.
Release of any financial details could lead to more unwelcome scrutiny for Trump as he seeks the Republican nomination to run for the White House again in 2024.
Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, reported heavy losses from his business enterprises over several years to offset hundreds of millions of dollars in income, according to news media reporting and trial testimony about his finances. That allowed him to pay very little in taxes.
The Trump Organization was found guilty on Dec. 6 in New York of carrying out a 15-year criminal scheme to defraud tax authorities. The company faces up to $1.6 million in fines, though Trump himself is not personally liable. He has said the case was politically motivated and the company plans to appeal.
He also faces a separate fraud suit in New York that accuses him of artificially inflating the value of his assets.
During his presidency, he faced persistent questions about conflicts of interest, as foreign dignitaries and Republican Party officials spent money in his luxury hotels.