The Supreme Court Has Given Congress Permission to Obtain Donald Trump’s Tax Records

Donald Trump’s Tax Records: Ex-President Trump Gives a Speech at Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach, Florida, on November 18th, 2022. After a three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court has finally allowed former President Donald Trump to turn over his tax returns to a congressional committee. House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee had requested Trump’s and his businesses’ tax returns for the years 2015 through 2020. The November 22 court judgment removes any remaining legal hurdles.

The Tax Documents of Donald Trump

After a three-year legal battle, on Tuesday the Supreme Court paved the way for the imminent transfer of former President Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee.

The court denied Trump’s request for an injunction that would have barred the Treasury Department from releasing Trump’s and some of his businesses’ tax returns for the previous six years to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats.

Donald Trump is the first modern president to refuse to reveal his tax returns, which he said were the subject of an ongoing IRS examination during his successful 2016 campaign and his four years in office. Trump said this week that he will seek reelection in 2024.

It was the third Supreme Court defeat for the former president this year, and the second in as many months. The court declined to hear arguments in October over the legal dispute over the FBI search of Trump’s Florida resort, which uncovered secret materials. Courts in January did not block the release of papers from the National Archives to a House committee looking into the January 6 uprising in the Capitol. Trump only received support from Justice Clarence Thomas.

Trump’s administration was marked by the Treasury Department’s refusal to hand over documents related to the ongoing controversy over his tax returns. However, the Biden administration stated that the committee had the legal authority to review any taxpayer’s return, including that of the president. The lower courts agreed with the committee that it had wide-ranging jurisdiction to seek tax returns and rejected Trump’s assertions that the committee was overreaching and just wanted the records so that they could be made public.

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Donald Trump's Tax Records
On November 1, Chief Justice John Roberts put a temporary hold on the case to consider the legal arguments presented by Trump’s attorneys and the rebuttals presented by the government and the House of Representatives. A little more than three weeks later, the court quietly removed Roberts’ injunction. Until the new Congress convenes in January, Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal will serve as the committee’s chairman. In a statement, Neal said that the committee “will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the previous three and a half years.”

Tweeting about the Supreme Court’s decision, Trump stated it set a “bad precedent for future Presidents.” He said the court had become “nothing more than a political entity,” and that as a result, “our country is paying the price.”

Furthermore, he remarked, “Why would anybody be shocked that the Supreme Court has decided against me, as they usually do?” The House said there would be “little or no time to accomplish their legislative job during this Congress, which is swiftly approaching it is close” if the IRS was ordered not to release the tax returns.

If Trump could have convinced the Supreme Court to step in, the committee would have been powerless after the Republicans took over the House in January. If the problem had not been fixed by then, they likely would have abandoned the records request.

In 2019, the House Ways and Means committee initially asked for Trump’s tax returns as part of an inquiry into the IRS audit program and the former president’s compliance with tax law. The Internal Revenue Service “must submit” any taxpayer’s returns to a select group of legislators, under federal law. The Trump administration’s Justice Department had previously defended Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to withhold the documents from lawmakers. If the records were being sought by Democrats for partisan purposes, Mnuchin reasoned, he had every right to withhold them. The result was a legal battle.

The committee resubmitted its request for Trump’s tax returns and other material for 2015–2020 after Joe Biden became president. The White House insisted that the Treasury Department had no choice but to accede to the demand. Following this, Trump went to court to try to prevent the transfer.

As part of a criminal inquiry, then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. sought copies of Trump’s personal and corporate tax documents. The Supreme Court also heard arguments in that case, and it too ruled against Trump, who had claimed blanket presidential protection.

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