Trump’s Tax Returns Can’t Be Obtained Without Consent, Judge Says

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he has refused to make public, can’t be obtained by a non-profit organization using the Freedom of Information Act, the federal appeals court in Washington ruled.

The information is shielded by a taxpayer privacy law passed after President Richard Nixon tried to use the Internal Revenue Service to harass his political enemies, Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said in an opinion Tuesday, upholding a lower-court ruling against a FOIA request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

With “certain limited exceptions” contained in the law, “no one can demand to inspect another’s tax records,” Henderson wrote, for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court.

Trump has insisted on keeping his tax returns confidential, going against a precedent first set when Nixon voluntarily disclosed his in 1974. Every president since then has allowed his tax filings to be made public.

Congress has the power to get a president’s tax return and make it public, which could become possible once Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January. Another possible route for disclosure could be document requests in several lawsuits targeting Trump for allegedly violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bars presidents from taking payments from foreign governments without Congressional consent.

The case is Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Internal Revenue Service, No. 17-5225, U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia (Washington).

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