Lawyers representing former President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE asked a federal judge on Tuesday to block the Treasury Department and the IRS from giving his tax returns to a congressional committee seeking to conduct oversight on the IRS's presidential audits.
In 2019, Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealGOP fears boomerang as threat of government shutdown grows House passes giant social policy and climate measure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, requested that the IRS provide Trump's personal and business tax returns, saying it was "critical to ensure the accountability of our government and elected officials."
The Trump administration refused to comply with Neal's request, leading to the committee filing a lawsuit to secure the returns.
Trump's lawyers argued in front of a federal judge that Neal's stated reasons for wanting Trump's tax returns were a pretext for actually wanting to find something politically embarrassing in the documents, NBC News reported.
"No one believes that Chairman Neal requested President Trump's tax returns so he can study legislation about IRS audits. No one. Chairman Neal admits that this justification was a mere litigation strategy. His fellow Committee-Members don't buy it either," one lawyer for Trump said.
"Anyone who's paid even minimal attention to American politics understands what's happening here: President Trump did not voluntarily disclose his tax returns during the campaign, his political opponents assume the information would damage him, and so his opponents want to force the disclosure," they added.
In seeking Trump's tax returns, the Ways and Means Committee invoked a federal law that requires both the Treasury Department and the IRS to turn over an individual's tax returns when requested by three different tax code-writing committees.
The Department of Justice said in July that the Treasury Department must turn over Trump's tax returns.
“The statute at issue here is unambiguous: ‘Upon written request’ of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary ‘shall furnish’ the requested tax information to the Committee,” Dawn Johnsen, acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, said at the time.
Trump's lawyers argued that the Constitution does not give Congress the the authority to request tax information and said Trump is entitled to the same legal protections he had while in office.
Legal teams for Trump have also claimed executive privilege in a lawsuit seeking to block the Jan. 6 Select Committee from obtaining his White House records.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has set a date of Nov. 4 to consider Trump's claim of executive privilege now that he is out of office.
"The committee's request is effectively a request to a sitting president: it was issued while President Trump was in office, was continuously pursued, and has always been tied to his status as president," Trump's lawyers argued on Tuesday.