The Supreme Court supports the House’s effort to get Trump’s tax returns

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the door for a House committee to receive several years of Donald Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, capping up a three-year legal struggle.

The court maintained the August order of an appeals court panel that unanimously cleared the way for the House Ways and Means Committee to get the former president’s tax returns, with no noteworthy disagreement.


Since 2019, the panel has been requesting Trump’s documents, claiming that they are critical to prospective legislation relating to the IRS’ presidential audit programmer. House Democrats have long sought access to Trump’s financial documents, claiming that they would reveal substantial conflicts of interest that influenced his actions as president.

Trump said that the committee’s queries were a ruse to achieve a political advantage by making his tax returns public.

The Supreme Court’s decision is technically temporary, since it rejects Trump’s emergency request from last month. However, the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday effectively ends the legal battle, enabling Democrats to obtain access to Trump’s tax returns and perhaps release them before Republicans reclaim control of the House in January.

A Treasury spokeswoman stated Tuesday afternoon that “the Treasury Department would comply with the Court of Appeals’ ruling,” but no timetable was provided.

The House sought Trump’s tax returns in May 2019, six months after regaining control of the House in the midterm elections that followed Trump’s presidency. The Ways and Means Committee obtained them from the IRS in accordance with a federal provision that gives congressional investigators wide access to tax return information. Trump’s Treasury and Justice Departments, though, opposed the initiative, claiming it had a valid legislative purpose and might be disallowed.

The House, on the other hand, said that the statute gave the IRS little leeway in deciding whether to cooperate with the committee’s request. After Trump left office in January 2021, the committee reiterated their demand, claiming that Trump’s efforts to obstruct it were much weaker as an ex-president. Lower courts concurred, finding in favour of the Ways and Means Committee at every step.

Some committee members urged Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass) to get the returns as soon as possible.

“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 (D-N.J.), long one of the most outspoken lawmakers on the effort, in a statement. “… At long last the charade should today be over and we should get these documents transmitted to the desk of our committee chairman as soon as possible.”

“We will now conduct the oversight that we have sought for the last three and a half years,” Neal promised. He did not, however, indicate when he might receive the information.

“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of counsel, and finally, our case has been affirmed by the highest court in the land,” he said in a statement. “Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different.”

This summer, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals offered a clear indication of where the case was heading.

“While it is possible that Congress may attempt to threaten the sitting President with an invasive request after leaving office, every President takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office,” a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August.

“This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug,” Judge David Sentelle, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, wrote in the panel’s opinion.

The Justice Department shifted its stance in the case when President Joe Biden entered office last year, supporting the House’s request.

Trump’s attempt to thwart the House Oversight Committee’s demand was partly based on a Supreme Court decision in a different legislative effort to get his financial records — the House Oversight Committee’s long-running attempt to subpoena them from Trump’s accounting company, Mazars USA. The Supreme Court found that Congress has wide and comprehensive investigative powers, but that such powers, especially when directed against a sitting president, are subject to certain limitations.

One appeals court judge who upheld the Ways and Means Committee’s bid to collect Trump’s papers had a similar worry, saying that obtaining an ex-information president’s may be used to mould that president’s behavior while in office.

“Although we cannot know the extent to which the requests and investigations influenced — or were intended to influence — President Trump’s conduct while in office, it is not far-fetched to believe that such intrusive inquiries could have a chilling effect on a President’s ability to fulfill his obligations under the Constitution and effectively manage the Executive Branch,” Judge Karen Henderson wrote in a concurring opinion.