The Supreme Court clears the way for Trump’s tax returns to be sent to Congress by the IRS


President Donald Trump arrives to address the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, September 24, 2019.

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a bid by former President Donald Trump to prevent Congress from receiving his federal income tax returns and those of related business entities from the IRS.

The decision forms the basis for the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns in the weeks before the Republicans take control of the House.

GOP lawmakers have vowed to end the commission’s quest to obtain the data and a related investigation into how the Internal Revenue Service audits sitting presidents’ tax returns.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court order, which noted no disagreement on any justice, comes more than three months after a three-judge panel of the Washington, D.C. federal appeals court ruled that the Ways and Means Committee had the right to Trump’s tax refund.

The full appeals court on October 27 denied Trump’s request that the full lineup of that court’s judges repeat his appeal.

Then, on Oct. 31, Trump asked the Supreme Court to block the commission 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 stay the lower court rulings that had cleared the way for the commission to get his charges.

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The Ways and Means Committee first asked the Treasury Department in April 2019 for Trump’s and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust’s federal income tax returns, along with those of seven public companies associated with the ex-president, one of which does business like Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump was president at the time of that request.

Federal law requires the Treasury Department and the IRS to file income tax returns whenever Ways and Means, or two other congressional committees that oversee tax issues, request it.

But then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who had been appointed by Trump, declined the request for his tax returns, saying the committee had no legitimate legislative purpose.

The commission then sued to force Treasury to turn over the returns.

After President Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump in the 2020 election, committee chair Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., his request for the tax returns, with additional details on why the panel wanted them. Neal said that in addition to reviewing how tax laws apply to presidents, the commission will also review potential conflicts of interest by a president.

The Treasury Department said in mid-2021 it would release the returns, citing advice from the ministry’s lawyers. They found that Neal’s request was valid and that the Treasury Department was required by law to comply.

Trump then resisted to prevent the charges from being turned over, arguing that the request violated both the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government and that the request had no legitimate purpose.

On Dec. 14, Judge Trevor McFadden of Washington Federal Court ruled against Trump, saying the commission was entitled to the charges.

“A long line of Supreme Court cases demand great reverence for apparently valid congressional investigations. Even the special concern shown to former presidents does not change the outcome,” McFadden wrote.

“The committee need only state a valid legislative purpose,” McFadden wrote. “That did it.”

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