President Donald Trump arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
The Supreme Court rejected the former president’s offer on Tuesday Donald Trump prevent Congress from obtaining his federal tax returns and related business entity statements from the IRS.
The decision paves the way for the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns in the weeks before Republicans take majority control of the House.
GOP lawmakers vowed to end the committee’s efforts to obtain records and a related investigation into how the Internal Revenue Service audits the tax returns of sitting presidents.
Tuesday’s Supreme Court order, which saw no dissent from any justice, comes more than three months after decided by a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, DC that the Ways and Means Committee had the right to obtain Trump’s tax returns.
On October 27, the full Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s request to have his appeal heard by a full panel of judges of that court.
Trump then asked the Supreme Court on October 31 to block the committee from obtaining his tax returns.
In that filing, Trump’s lawyers wrote: “This case raises important questions about the separation of powers that will affect any future president.”
The Supreme Court’s brief response Tuesday rejected Trump’s request to uphold a lower court ruling that cleared the way for the committee to obtain its returns.
The Ways and Means Committee first asked the Treasury Department in April 2019 for the federal income tax returns of Trump and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, along with the returns of seven limited liability companies linked to the former president, one of which does business as Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump was president at the time of the request.
Federal law mandates that the Treasury Department and the IRS deliver income tax returns when requested by Ways and Means or two other congressional committees that have oversight of tax issues.
Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom Trump appointed but refused to grant the request for his tax returns, said the committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose.
The committee then sued to force the Treasury Department to return the proceeds.
After the president Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump in the 2020 election, chairman of the Rep. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., renewed his request for the tax returns, adding details about why the panel wanted them. Neal said the committee, in addition to reviewing how the tax laws apply to presidents, will also review the president’s potential conflicts of interest.
The Treasury said in mid-2021 it would publish the statements, citing an opinion from the ministry’s lawyers. They found that Neal’s request was valid and that the Treasury had a legal obligation to comply.
Trump then countersued to block the return of the proceeds, arguing that the request violated the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government and that the request lacked a legitimate purpose.
On December 14, Washington federal judge Trevor McFadden ruled against Trump, saying the committee was entitled to the proceeds.
“A long line of Supreme Court cases demands great deference and two-faced congressional investigations. Not even special treatment given to former presidents changes the outcome,” McFadden wrote.
“The committee need only state a valid legislative purpose,” McFadden wrote. “It did.”
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