Supreme Court supports House efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns

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Supreme Court supports House efforts to obtain Trump's tax returns
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Trump argued that the committee’s demands were a pretext for an illegitimate purpose: to make his tax returns public to gain political advantage.

Technically, the Supreme Court’s decision is temporary, dismissing an emergency request Trump filed last month. However, Tuesday’s High Court order will likely represent the end of the legal battle, allowing Democrats access to Trump’s statements and possibly releasing them before Republicans take control of the House in January.

A Treasury spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that “the Treasury Department will comply with the decision of the Court of Appeals,” but gave no time frame.

The House demanded Trump’s tax returns in May 2019, several months after winning a majority in the midterm elections following Trump’s inauguration. The Ways and Means Committee requested them from the IRS under a federal law that provides congressional investigators with broad access to tax return information. But Trump’s Treasury and Justice Departments rejected the effort, saying the request had no legitimate legislative purpose and could be denied.

The House, on the other hand, said the law leaves the IRS no discretion as to whether to comply with the committee’s request. The committee reiterated its demand after Trump left in January 2021, saying Trump’s efforts to block him were even weaker as a former president. The lower courts agreed, ruling at every turn in favor of the ways and means committee.

Some members of the committee called the chairman of ways and means Richard Neal (D-Mass) to get your hands on returns without delay.

“It’s been 1,329 days since our committee requested Donald Trump’s tax returns – almost as long as the American Civil War,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (DN.J.), long one of the most outspoken lawmakers on the effort, in a statement. “…Finally, the charade should be over today and we should get these documents to our committee chairman’s office as soon as possible.”

Neal vowed the committee “will now conduct the oversight we have been seeking for three and a half years.” But he gave no indication of when he might get the information.

“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of an attorney, and ultimately our case was upheld by the highest court in the land,” he said in a statement. “Since Magna Carta, the principle of surveillance has been confirmed, and today is no different.”

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals gave a strong indication this summer of the direction the issue is taking.

“While Congress may attempt to threaten the incumbent president with an invasive demand after he leaves office, every president takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office. his duties,” said a three-judge panel. of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August.

“It is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug,” Judge David Sentelle, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, wrote in the panel opinion.

After President Joe Biden took office last year, the Justice Department reversed its position in the dispute and backed the House request.

Trump’s efforts to block the House panel’s request relied in large part on a Supreme Court decision as part of a separate Congressional effort to obtain his financial records — the oversight committee’s longstanding attempt to the House to subpoena them from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress has a wide and sweeping investigative power, but that such an investigation — especially when aimed at a sitting president — is subject to certain limits.

An appeals court judge who upheld the Ways and Means Committee’s efforts to obtain Trump’s records raised a similar concern, warning that a committee’s efforts to obtain a former president’s records could be used to shape the conduct of this President during his tenure.

“While we cannot know to what extent the requests and investigations influenced – or were intended to influence – President Trump’s conduct while in office, it is not a stretch to believe that such intrusive investigations could have a chilling effect on a president’s ability to fulfill his obligations under the Constitution and effectively manage the executive branch,” Justice Karen Henderson wrote in a concurring opinion.

Benjamin Guggenheim contributed to this story.

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