Supreme Court allows release of Trump’s tax returns to House Democrats


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s latest plea to block the release of his tax records to Democrats in the House of Representatives.

The court’s decision in a brief order noting no dissenting votes means the committee can try to access the documents before the Republicans take over the House in January. However, the commission has not said how soon it expects to receive the documents. Upon taking control, Republicans are expected to withdraw the request.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked the Ways and Means panel from accessing Trump’s tax records while the court decided how to act on Trump’s request.

Trump, who, unlike other recent presidents, refused to release his tax returns amid scrutiny of his business affairs, turned to the judges after a Washington appeals court refused to intervene. The court recently denied similar requests from Trump.

The former president’s lawyers disputed the House Ways and Means Committee’s claim that it needed the information to investigate how the IRS conducts the auditing process for presidents, saying it could not withstand scrutiny.

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House Democrats, as well as the Biden administration, urged the court to deny Trump’s request because their demand for the tax documents reflected a valid legislative purpose.

Former President Donald Trump at an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused last month to review a three-judge panel’s ruling in August that the Ways and Means Committee could obtain the tax return.

Tax returns are confidential under federal law, but there are some exceptions, including the commission chair to request them.

The legal battle began in April 2019, when Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the panel, asked for Trump’s proceeds and those of related corporate entities. He said he sought the information as part of the commission’s investigation into whether tax laws related to presidents should be changed.

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The Treasury Department, then under Trump’s control, refused to comply, saying Neal had no valid target, prompting the commission to file a lawsuit.

After the election of President Joe Biden, the Treasury Department said last year it would comply, but Trump himself objected. A federal judge ruled in December that the request was legal, to which Trump appealed.

Trump claims, among other things, not only that the request is invalid, but also that the statute is unconstitutional because it is too broad, and that the Biden administration’s decision to make the materials public was an unconstitutional form of retaliation that violates with Trump’s First Amendment rights.

Democrats have been calling on Trump to release his tax returns since the 2016 presidential campaign. While no law requires presidential candidates to release their tax returns, it has become the norm for both Democrats and Republicans to do so.

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In another case, the Trump Organization — Trump’s tight-knit company — is on trial over allegations that it was involved in a 15-year plan to compensate top executives “off the books” to help them evade taxes.

Trump faces other legal battles, including in the House Committee investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters. The committee has issued a subpoena requesting Trump’s testimony and calling for him to testify at the Capitol last week or via videoconference. He didn’t appear.

While the Supreme Court has a conservative 6-to-3 majority, including three justices he has appointed, Trump has not fared well on other such urgent applications lately, including his attempt to prevent White House documents from being handed over to the Supreme Court. House committee on January 6 and his effort to prevent his financial records from being disclosed to New York prosecutors. Most recently, last month the court rejected Trump’s request to authorize a special master to review classified papers seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

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