Video: Joining “Chicago Tonight” to discuss priorities in Congress are U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). (Produced by Alexandra Silets)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the imminent delivery of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee after a three-year legal battle.
The court, with no known dissent, denied Trump’s application for an order that would have prevented the Treasury Department from granting six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his activities to the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee.
Alone among recent presidents, Trump declined to release his tax returns during his successful 2016 campaign or his four years in the White House, citing what he said was an ongoing audit by the IRS. Last week, Trump announced that he would run again in 2024.
It was the former president’s second defeat on the Supreme Court in as many months and his third this year. In October, the court declined to intervene in the legal battle surrounding the FBI search of the Trump Florida estate that uncovered classified documents.
In January, the court refused to stop the National Archives from turning over documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 uprising at the Capitol. Judge Clarence Thomas was the only vote in favor of Trump.
In the dispute over his tax returns, the Treasury Department had refused to provide the documents during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration said it is clear federal law that the committee has the right to review any taxpayer’s statement, including that of the president.
Lower courts agreed that the committee has broad authority to obtain tax returns and rejected Trump’s claims that he was overstepping and just wanted the documents so they could be made public.
Chief Justice John Roberts imposed a temporary freeze on Nov. 1 to allow the court to weigh legal issues raised by Trump’s attorneys and counterarguments from the administration and the House of Representatives.
Just over three weeks later, the court reversed Roberts’ order without comment.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The House argued that an order preventing the IRS from providing tax returns would leave lawmakers “little or no time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is rapidly nearing its end.”
Had Trump convinced the nation’s highest court to intervene, he could have run out of committee time, with Republicans poised to take control of the House in January. They almost certainly would have dropped the document request if the issue hadn’t been resolved by that date.
The House Ways and Means panel and its chair, Democrat Richard Neal of Massachusetts, first requested Trump’s tax returns in 2019 as part of an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s audit program and compliance of the tax law by the former president. A federal law states that the Internal Revenue Service will “provide” any taxpayer’s returns to a handful of senior lawmakers.
The Justice Department under the Trump administration had defended a decision by then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to withhold tax returns from Congress. Mnuchin said he could withhold the documents because he concluded they were wanted by Democrats for partisan reasons. A lawsuit ensued.
After President Joe Biden took office, the committee renewed the request, seeking Trump’s tax returns and additional information from 2015 to 2020. The White House deemed the request valid and that the Treasury Department had no no choice but to comply. Trump then attempted to stop the handover in court.
Then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. obtained copies of Trump’s personal and business tax records as part of a criminal investigation. That case also went to the Supreme Court, which rejected Trump’s argument that he had broad immunity as president.