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Judge says Treasury must give Trump 72 hours before releasing tax info to Democrats
A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary order that will require the Treasury Department to give former President Trump's personal lawyers 72 hours notice before providing Trump's tax returns to House Democrats.
Judge Trevor McFadden, a judge in federal district court in Washington, D.C., appointed by Trump, directed the Treasury Department and IRS to provide Trump's personal lawyers with the three-days notice before providing the former president's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The order lasts until Feb. 5.
McFadden announced the order at a teleconference held Friday.
The hearing had been requested by Trump's lawyers in order to get clarity on how House Democrats' lawsuit over their tax return request was going to proceed under the new administration.
Now that Trump is out of office, the Treasury is a part of the Biden administration, which must determine how it plans to address House Democrats' request for Trump's tax returns.
Trump's lawyers expressed concerns that the Biden administration could provide House Democrats with Trump's tax returns without giving them advance notice and a chance to have their claims heard.
James Gilligan, a lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is representing Treasury and the IRS, said the department doesn't know if the Biden administration has reached a decision yet on whether it will provide the requested tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee.
"This is only their second full day in office," he said.
DOJ proposed that 72 hours notice be provided to Trump's lawyers in the next two weeks to maintain the status quo in the case for a short period of time.
The Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against Treasury and the IRS in 2019, after the agencies refused to comply with requests and subpoenas for Trump's personal and business tax returns.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) made the request under 6103 of the federal tax code, which states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" tax returns requested by the chairs of Congress's tax committees. He has said the committee is interested in obtaining the documents because it is conducting oversight and considering legislation related to how the IRS enforces tax laws against a president. But the Trump administration argued that Neal's request lacked a legitimate legislative purpose.
House counsel Douglas Letter said at Friday's hearing that the Ways and Means Committee's lawsuit is still live because the panel still wants to obtain Trump's tax returns. He said that the request for Trump's tax returns made under section 6103 did not expire when the new Congress began earlier this month, and that Neal has been authorized by the House's rules package to reissue the subpoenas as necessary.
McFadden said he's "very sympathetic" to Trump's desire to have his day in court before Treasury provides any of the former president's tax returns to Congress. He suggested that if Treasury decides that it intends to comply with House Democrats' request, that he might enter an order that would require Trump's lawyers to be provided notice before the documents could be turned over.