Where things stand in court fights over Trump tax returns

Lawsuits over President Trump’s tax returns and financial records are making their way through the court system, with some before the Supreme Court.

Trump is the first president in decades who hasn’t made any of his tax returns public, and he has been vigorously pursuing court action to keep information about his taxes and finances private. 

Recent court actions have been a mixed bag for Trump. In two lawsuits, Trump has lost at the appeals court level and is hoping that the Supreme Court will take up the cases. But in another, Republicans have scored a decisive win.

Here are the latest developments in the lawsuits over Trump’s tax returns and financial records.


Trump’s challenge to the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena for his tax returns

The parties in Trump’s lawsuit over New York prosecutors’ subpoena for his tax returns are waiting to hear if the Supreme Court will take up the case.

As part of a grand jury investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in August issued a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for the president’s personal and business tax returns and other financial records. The following month, Trump filed a lawsuit against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) and Mazars in an effort to block the subpoena, arguing that the subpoena is unlawful because presidents have immunity from being criminally investigated.

Federal judges in New York at both the district and appeals court levels have ruled against Trump. The appeals court said in its ruling that presidential immunity doesn’t bar the enforcement of the DA’s subpoena.

Trump’s lawyers have appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in their petition earlier this month that the lower courts ruled incorrectly and that “whether the President is absolutely immune is an important and unsettled issue of federal law that the Court should resolve.” The Justice Department also urged the Supreme Court to hear the case. 

But the Manhattan DA’s office said the Supreme Court shouldn’t hear the case, arguing that the court’s intervention isn’t necessary because the appeals court correctly applied past precedents in rejecting Trump’s argument about sweeping presidential immunity.

Trump’s petition is scheduled to be considered by the Supreme Court justices in a conference on Dec. 13.

The DA’s office has agreed not to enforce the subpoena until the Supreme Court issues a final determination in the case.


Trump’s challenge to the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for his financial records

The second case that Trump wants the Supreme Court to take up is his lawsuit challenging the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena to accounting firm Mazars for his financial records.

The Democratic-led committee issued the subpoena in April. Unlike the subpoena New York prosecutors issued to Mazars, the Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena does not explicitly request Trump’s tax returns.

District and appellate judges in Washington, D.C., have sided with House Democrats, agreeing with them that the subpoena is enforceable and has valid legislative purposes.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay of the subpoena until it disposes of the case. It has asked Trump to file his petition for why the Supreme Court should hear the case by Dec. 5.


Challenges to California’s tax return law

Republicans’ biggest victory so far has come in California, where the state’s highest court last week struck down a state law that would have required Trump and other presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the 2020 primary ballot.

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the presidential tax-return disclosure requirement violated a portion of the state’s constitution, siding with the California Republican Party over California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D). The state Supreme Court’s ruling cannot be appealed.

There had also been several legal challenges to the California law in federal court. In October, a district judge in California granted a preliminary injunction against the law, and the state had appealed to the federal court of appeals for the ninth circuit. But after the California Supreme Court issued its ruling, Padilla and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) filed a motion seeking to have their federal appeal dismissed.


The House Ways and Means Committee’s lawsuit over Trump’s federal tax returns

The case over House Democrats’ efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS has moved slower than some of the other lawsuits.

The House Ways and Means Committee filed the lawsuit in July, after the Treasury Department and IRS rejected committee Chairman Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s federal tax filings. 

In September, lawyers for the Trump administration, along with Trump’s personal lawyers, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion made a number of arguments, including that the House lacked standing to sue and that it has failed to state a claim on which it could receive relief.

Judge Trevor McFadden, a federal district judge in Washington D.C. and a Trump appointee, held a hearing on the administration’s motion earlier this month. During the hearing, he appeared supportive of the idea that his court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the case under Article III of the Constitution, but expressed reservations about letting all of the House’s counts move forward, asking the House’s lawyers if they would be OK with proceeding on only some of their counts. He also signaled that he would like the House and the administration to think about negotiating a resolution.

McFadden has yet to issue a ruling.


Trump’s lawsuit over his New York state tax returns

Several key developments occurred in November in Trump’s case aimed at blocking the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his New York state tax returns under a New York law.

First, Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee in federal district court in D.C., dismissed two New York officials from the lawsuit. Nichols agreed with the officials that the federal court in D.C. don’t have jurisdiction over them.

One week later, Nichols ordered the Ways and Means Committee to give the court and Trump notice if they request the president’s state tax returns from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, and ordered the committee to not receive any requested state tax returns for a period of 14 days.

The House’s lawyers have said that Neal hasn’t yet determined whether he will request Trump’s state tax returns. Neal’s focus has been on trying to obtain Trump’s federal tax returns, and he may never end up seeking the state filings.


Trump’s challenge to House committees’ subpoenas to his banks

Trump’s lawsuit challenging the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees’ subpoenas for his bank records is currently pending before the federal appeals court in New York.

The two committees issued subpoenas earlier this year to Deutsche Bank and Capital One seeking financial records for Trump, his three oldest children and his businesses. The subpoenas aren’t being enforced while the appeals court considers the case.

During oral arguments in the case in August, the appeals court asked the banks if they had any tax returns relevant to the subpoenas. Subsequently, Capital One told the appeals court that it does not have any relevant tax returns. Deutsche Bank has told the court that it has tax returns relevant to the subpoena for two individuals, but that neither of those individuals are Trump.

A group of media outlets — including The Associated Press, CNN and The New York Times — had filed a motion to unseal the names of the people whose tax returns Deutsche Bank has, but the appeals court rejected that motion in October.

Tags Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Richard Neal

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