Supreme Court denies Trump request to block tax returns from Congress

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a congressional committee to examine Donald Trump’s tax returns, denying without comment the former president’s last-ditch effort to extend a legal battle that has consumed Congress and the courts for years.

The justices’ brief order means that the Treasury Department may quickly hand over six years of tax records from Trump and some of his companies to the House Ways and Means Committee.

There were no recorded dissents and, as is often the case in emergency applications, the court did not state a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the records.

Lawmakers have said they need Trump’s tax returns from his time in office, plus the year before his term and the year after for comparison, to help evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits. Trump has argued that Democratic lawmakers are on a fishing expedition designed to embarrass him politically.

In May 2019, the Treasury Department refused a statutory and subpoena request for President Trump’s tax returns. Now, it’s unclear if Democrats will get them. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

“It has been 1,329 days since our committee sought Donald Trump’s tax returns — almost as long as the American Civil War,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight. “And for 1,329 days, our request made under law has been delayed, obfuscated and blocked by Donald Trump and his adjutants in the government and the courts. … The Supreme Court is right to keep its nose out of this case.”

It was unclear when the Treasury Department will turn over the documents — a spokesman said only that the department would comply — but time is not on the side of Democrats who run the committee. Demands for the records would almost surely have expired in January, when Republicans take control of the House as a result of the recent midterm elections.

House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter had told the justices that “delaying Treasury from providing the requested tax information would leave the Committee and Congress as a whole little or no time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is quickly approaching its end.”

The court decision immediately touched off a scramble on Capitol Hill, and speculation about whether the records Trump has so vigorously guarded would at some point become public.

Generally, it is unlawful for the government to release tax documents about an individual taxpayer. Eventually, though, the House Ways and Means Committee may be able to release key information about Trump’s returns under the mandatory presidential audit program, according to a Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe committee deliberations. That release could take the form of a report or other findings, which the committee could make public after holding a vote, the aide said.

In the Senate, where Democrats will retain the majority next year, party lawmakers could still try to seek access to Trump’s tax records, though how and when is unclear. “The Finance Committee is reviewing its options,” a spokeswoman said.

“While I wish it came sooner, this is a victory for Congress and its ability to conduct oversight of the executive branch,” said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

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The Republican lawmaker who may become chairman of the House committee, Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), blasted the pending release of the records, saying in a statement that “Democrats’ relentless pursuit of President Trump’s tax records is nothing more than a partisan attack on a political opponent that serves no legitimate or legislative purpose.”

Trump’s lawyers had told the Supreme Court that changes in control of the House was all the more reason to grant the request to block the release of the records. “The Congress has only a few days left on its legislative calendar,” lawyer Cameron T. Norris said in his filing. “Though a few days is enough time to improperly expose the most sensitive documents of its chief political rival, it’s not enough time to properly study, draft, debate, or pass legislation.”

Last month, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. That court also refused to put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, stopped the release Nov. 1, requesting more briefing and giving the high court more time to act. Tuesday’s action dissolved that order.

The Supreme Court generally has been unreceptive to assertions from Trump — who is again running for president — that he should be allowed to keep records private…



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