After a three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court paved the way on Tuesday for Donald Trump’s tax returns to be given to a congressional committee soon.
The court turned down Trump’s request for an order that would have stopped the Treasury Department from giving the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses. There were no known disagreements with the court’s decision.
Trump was the only president in recent history who didn’t release his tax returns. He did this both during his successful 2016 campaign and during his four years in the White House. He said this was because the IRS was still auditing him. Trump said last week that he would run again in 2024.
It was the second loss at the Supreme Court in as many months for the former president, and the third this year. In October, the court decided not to get involved in the legal battle over the FBI search of Trump’s Florida estate, where classified documents were found.
In January, the court didn’t stop the National Archives from giving documents to the House committee looking into the uprising at the Capitol on January 6. Clarence Thomas was the only judge to vote for Trump.
During Trump’s time in office, the Treasury Department refused to hand over his tax records, which caused a dispute. But the Biden administration said that federal law makes it clear that the committee has the right to look at any taxpayer’s return, including the president’s.
Lower courts agreed that the committee has a lot of power to get Trump’s tax returns, and they didn’t believe Trump’s claims that the committee was going too far and only wanted the documents to make them public.
Chief Justice John Roberts put a temporary freeze in place on November 1 to give the court time to consider the legal issues raised by Trump’s lawyers and the counterarguments of the administration and the House of Representatives.
About three weeks after that, the court took away Roberts’ order without saying anything.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, who is in charge of the committee until the new Congress starts in January, said in a statement that his committee “will now do the oversight that we’ve wanted for the past three and a half years.”
When asked for a comment, the Trump campaign did not respond right away.
The House said that if a court order stopping the IRS from giving out the tax returns, lawmakers would have “little or no time to finish their legislative work in this Congress, which is quickly coming to an end.”
If Trump had been able to get the highest court in the country to step in, he would have been able to run out the clock on the committee before Republicans took over the House in January. If the problem hadn’t been solved by then, they almost certainly would have dropped the records request.
In 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee asked for Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s audit program and whether the former president followed tax laws. The Internal Revenue Service “shall provide” the tax returns of any taxpayer to a few top lawmakers, according to federal law.
During the Trump administration, the Justice Department backed Steven Mnuchin’s decision not to give Congress the president’s tax returns. Mnuchin said that he could keep the documents from the Democrats because he thought that was why they wanted them. A lawsuit ensued.
After Joe Biden became president, the committee asked again for Trump’s tax returns and more information from 2015 to 2020. The White House said that the request was valid and that the Treasury Department had no choice but to agree. Trump then went to court to try to stop the transfer of power.
As part of a criminal investigation, Manhattan’s District Attorney at the time, Cyrus Vance Jr., got copies of both Trump’s personal and business tax records. This case also went to the Supreme Court, which didn’t agree with Trump’s claim that being president gave him broad immunity.