Judge Dismisses Trump Suit to Block Release of Tax Returns
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s lawsuit to stop the release of his tax returns to a congressional committee was dismissed by a judge, who said a long line of U.S. Supreme Court precedents require “great deference” to valid congressional inquiries.
Within hours, the former president said he will appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington.
The fight over the tax returns goes back to 2019, when House Ways and Means Committee Committee Chairman Richard Neal sued to compel then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to hand over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
“It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the chairman’s right to do so,” McFadden 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.”
Under Trump, the Justice Department fought House subpoenas for the documents. In July, the Justice Department directed the Treasury Department to hand over the tax returns to Congress, reversing a 2019 opinion that Treasury shouldn’t hand over the documents. Trump sued to block the release.
The ruling Tuesday is Trump’s latest legal setback in fights with Democrats. A federal appeals court this month rejected his bid to keep his White House records from a House select committee on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He’s also appealing to keep his accounting records from another House panel probing presidential conflicts of interest.
Congress first allowed its committees to access tax returns of individuals starting in 1926.
Trump refused to follow the practice of his predecessors to release his taxes during the 2016 presidential campaign, McFadden noted.
“That refusal led many -- including his eventual opponent, Hilary Clinton, and then-Vice President Joe Biden -- to demand that he release his returns,” the judge said. “He did not oblige.”
McFadden, who was appointed by Trump, rejected the former president’s argument that allowing Congress to subpoena tax filings of a sitting President would give lawmakers undue influence by letting them hang the threat over the executive.
“He would understand that Congress could make good on the threat only after he left office,” the judge wrote. “By then, his tax returns would be less salient, and the request would not restrict his abilities as a sitting President.”
Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the Tuesday ruling isn’t surprising because “the law is clearly on the committee’s side.” In a statement, Neal said he was “pleased that we’re now one step closer to being able to conduct more thorough oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”
The top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, criticized the ruling.
“Today’s ruling is troubling because the court is empowering Democrats in Congress to weaponize the tax code for purely political purposes, endangering the privacy of any taxpayer in America who politicians in Congress seek to target,” Brady said in a statement.
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