Judge dismisses Trump suit to block Congress from getting tax returns
A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed an effort from former President Trump to prevent the Treasury Department and IRS from providing House Democrats with his tax returns.
Judge Trevor McFadden, a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., who was appointed by Trump, said that “facially valid” congressional inquiries should not be impeded.
“A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries. Even the special solicitude accorded former Presidents does not alter the outcome,” McFadden wrote in a 45-page opinion. “The Court will therefore dismiss this case.”
While the ruling is a win for House Democrats, Trump quickly informed the court late Tuesday night that he intends to appeal, which will likely prolong the case and ensure that the committee does not obtain the returns anytime soon.
McFadden stayed execution of his ruling for 14 days to allow the parties in the case to discuss next steps, and instructed the executive branch to not provide House Democrats with the tax returns during that time period.
If the parties in the case don’t reach an agreement on next steps within 14 days, Trump can seek relief from an appeals court.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the lawmaker who requested Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, praised the ruling.
“This ruling is no surprise, the law is clearly on the Committee’s side. I am pleased that we’re now one step closer to being able to conduct more thorough oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program,” he said in a statement.
Trump’s attorney did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Neal first requested Trump’s federal tax returns in 2019, under a provision in the federal tax code that states that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” tax returns requested by chairs of Congress’s tax committees. If the Ways and Means Committee receives the tax returns, it has to view them in a closed session, but it can vote to send a report to the full House that makes some or all of the documents public.
Neal has said he wants to see the tax returns because the committee is conducting oversight and considering legislation about how the IRS audits presidents. It is IRS policy to conduct mandatory audits of presidents, but it is not required by law.
The Trump administration rejected Neal’s efforts, arguing that the chairman’s request lacked a legitimate legislative purpose. But the Biden administration took the opposite position, with the Department of Justice saying in July that Treasury was required to defer to Congress.
Trump in his personal capacity then sought to block Treasury and the IRS from turning over the tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee. The committee and the Biden administration sought to dismiss Trump’s claims, and McFadden on Tuesday sided with them.
In his decision, McFadden expressed reservations about allowing the IRS to hand over Trump’s tax returns, but wrote that the former president is “wrong on the law” in his effort to block the committee’s request.
“It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the Chairman’s right to do so,” the judge wrote. “Congress has granted him this extraordinary power, and courts are loath to second guess congressional motives or duly enacted statutes. The Court will not do so here and thus must dismiss this case.”
The ruling comes as Trump is still fighting ongoing legal battles with Congress over access to his personal and administration records.
An appeals court last week ruled that the Biden administration can turn over hundreds of pages of Trump White House records to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, setting up what will likely be a Supreme Court test of Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
–Updated on Dec. 15 at 10:38 a.m.
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