The US Supreme Court will authorize a congressional committee to receive copies of Donald Trump’s tax returns, ending a three-year battle by the Democratic-led body to see the documents the former president has declined to publish since his first run for the White House.
The court did not make any public comment with its decision, but it rejected Trump’s plea for an order that would have prevented the Treasury Department from giving six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his companies to the committee of ways and means of the House.
The influential committee will continue to be led by a chairman of the Democratic Party, in this case Congressman from Massachusetts Richard Neal, until the new Congress is sworn in in January with majority Republicans and therefore takes the seats of the committees, after the mid-term elections.
It was Trump’s second Supreme Court defeat in as many months, and his third this year.
In October, the court declined to intervene in the legal battle surrounding the FBI’s search of Trump’s estate in Florida that revealed classified documents.
In January, the court refused to block the National Archives from turning over documents to the House special panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on Capitol Hill by extremist supporters of then-President Trump who were trying to prevent certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election. Judge Clarence Thomas was the only one to vote for Trump.
In the dispute over his tax returns, the Treasury Department had refused to provide the documents during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration has said federal law is clear that the committee has the right to review any taxpayer’s return, including the president’s.
Lower courts agreed the committee had broad power to obtain tax returns and rejected Trump’s claims that he was overstepping and only wanted the documents so they could be made public.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts imposed a temporary freeze Nov. 1 to allow the court to weigh legal issues raised by Trump’s lawyers and counterarguments from the administration and House of Representatives .
Just over three weeks later, the court lifted Roberts’ order.
No Supreme Court justice on Tuesday disagreed with the order. The House Ways and Means Committee in 2019 sought Trump’s returns under federal law, saying they were part of their investigation into Trump’s compliance with the Internal Revenue Service audit.
Since then, Trump has been fighting the case in court.
The Treasury Department is now authorized to turn over the documents to the Ways and Means Committee, but it’s unclear what Democrats on the committee will be able to accomplish in the few weeks of congressional work left this year.
The Justice Department under the Trump administration had defended a decision by then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to withhold congressional tax returns. Mnuchin argued he could withhold the documents because he concluded they were wanted by Democrats for partisan reasons. A trial ensued.
After Biden took office, the committee renewed the request, requesting Trump’s tax returns and additional information from 2015 through 2020. The White House found the request to be valid and that the Treasury Department did not had no choice but to comply.
Trump then tried to stop the transfer in court. Then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr obtained copies of Trump’s personal and business tax records as part of a criminal investigation.
That case also went to the Supreme Court, which rejected Trump’s argument that he had broad immunity as president.
In 2020, The New York Times published damning information about Trump’s wealth and taxes after obtaining tax information on the then president dating back two decades.
Documents showed chronic business losses and Trump paying virtually no federal income tax, but he has faced no conclusive legal consequences so far and boasted that a habit of evasion tax “makes me smart”.