Supreme Court allows House Democrats to obtain Trump’s tax returns
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a House committee to receive former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, denying his request to block their release in the final weeks of Democratic scrutiny of the chamber.
The court order, which was unsigned and noted no dissent, is the most recent case in which he sided with Mr Trump, who appointed three judges to the bench. The move means the Treasury Department is expected to soon turn over Mr. Trump’s financial records to the House, which has been seeking them since 2019.
Mr Trump’s legal team had urged justices to extend a lower court’s stay as he pursued an appeal to the Supreme Court, saying the House request raised issues too big to leave the Department of Justice. Treasury hand over its cases before they are resolved.
But Douglas N. Letter, the House’s chief counsel, urged the Supreme Court not to intervene, pointing to a new Congress in January. Any further delay “would leave the committee and Congress as a whole little or no time to complete their legislative work,” he wrote in a brief earlier this month.
In a terse order, the Supreme Court said it was rejecting Mr Trump’s stay request. It did not include any legal reason for the decision.
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Lawyers for Mr. Trump and a representative for Richard E. Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case dates back to Mr Trump’s refusal in 2016 to release his tax returns, breaking the modern precedent set by presidential candidates and presidents.
In 2019, after Democrats took control of the House, Mr. Neal asked the Treasury Department to provide them.
Despite a law that gives the ways and means committee the power to see any taxpayer’s documents, the Trump administration has refused to let the department turn over the records. In July 2019, the Chamber filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce his request.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that Mr. Neal’s request had no valid legislative purpose. His assertion that Congress needs material to study a program that audits presidents is a pretense for a politically motivated abuse of power, they said.
The case was assigned to a judge appointed by Trump, Trevor N. McFadden, who took his time to render a decision.
The case was still pending in 2021, when the Biden administration took office and the current Congress sat. Mr Neal renewed his request and the Department of Justice released a memorandum saying the committee had a legal right to the returns.
In December last year, Judge McFadden looked into the case, ruling that the committee had a legal right to the records. But he blocked the Treasury Department from handing them over until the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reconsiders its decision.
In August, a panel of the Court of Appeals upheld Judge McFadden’s decision, but Mr. Trump asked the full appeals court to reconsider the issue. He denied that request last month.
Mr. Trump then asked the Supreme Court to intervene, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. temporarily extended the lockdown.
Even as he secured a conservative supermajority on the court for years to come, Mr Trump has had a mixed record with the justices. In recent years, the court has rejected his efforts to challenge aspects of the 2020 election, to block prosecutors from obtaining his financial records and to have an outside arbitrator review sensitive documents seized from his residence.