The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to deny a bid by former President Trump to block his tax returns from being handed over to a House panel.
The court filings had been requested by Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergency matters arising in the District of Columbia. Roberts, in response to an earlier petition from Trump, temporarily halted proceedings in the House Ways and Means Committee’s pursuit of Trump’s records in order to give the court time to consider the matter.
In their responses filed Thursday, the DOJ and the House committee pressed the justices to deny Trump’s effort to further extend the long-running legal saga after he appealed his lower court defeat.
“The decision below does not present a question worthy of this Court’s review,” a lawyer for the House Democrats wrote. “The court of appeals, like the district court, faithfully applied this Court’s precedents in rejecting the Trump parties’ attempt to prevent Treasury from providing the requested tax information to the Chairman [of the House Ways and Means Committee].”
In procedural terms, Trump is requesting that the Supreme Court shield the documents — six years of his tax returns and eight years of his business records — while he formally appeals the lower court ruling to the justices.
House Democrats, for their part, say that this would effectively grant Trump “a preliminary form of the ultimate relief that both lower courts denied after full consideration of the merits.”
The DOJ, siding with the House committee, also urged the justices to maintain the ruling against Trump by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
House Democrats initially sought Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department while he was in the White House, a request the department rebuffed during his presidency. But under President Biden, the department later agreed to comply with lawmakers’ request.
Federal law generally requires that tax returns be kept secret unless an exception applies, one of which being a written request by the House Ways and Means Committee. The issue in Trump’s litigation in large part turned on whether this exception is constitutional.
The current phase of litigation arose last year when Trump asked a federal judge in D.C. to block the IRS from handing over his records, citing his privacy concerns and challenging the constitutionality of the House committee’s request.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, dismissed Trump’s suit late last year. His ruling was later affirmed by the D.C. Circuit, which last month rejected Trump’s request to rehear the case, prompting his turn to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s lawyers told the justices that the House panel’s pursuit of the records is legally invalid.
“The Committee’s purpose in requesting President Trump’s tax returns has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the President’s tax information to the public,” they wrote.
The committee, for its part, maintains that it requires the records to inform its review of the IRS’s presidential audit process.
“Concerns about the IRS’s ability to do so are not entirely new: in the early 1970s, a Congressional investigation revealed that the IRS had under-determined President Nixon’s liability by more than $400,000, prompting the IRS to adopt a policy that Presidents’ (and Vice Presidents’) annual tax returns will be subject to mandatory audit,” the House committee wrote Thursday. “Former President Donald Trump’s term in office raised such concerns anew — and amplified them.”