Trump taxes: House Ways and Means Committee may have files

A federal appeals court panel ruled on Tuesday that House Democrats are allowed to review Donald Trump’s 2015-2020 tax returns, rejecting several legal arguments by the former president, who has sought for years to keep their financial records private.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was a victory for the House Ways and Means Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass. ), first requested in 2019 that the Internal Revenue Service turn over copies of Trump’s tax returns to the committee. The Treasury Department initially refused, and the issue has been linked to litigation ever since.

The former president has one week to appeal the panel’s decision, including asking the full appeals court to hear the case, before the judgment takes effect. Trump attorney Cameron T. Norris, who is handling the call, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) applauded the decision, calling it “an important victory for the rule of law.”

“Access to the former president’s tax returns is crucial to defending the public interest, our national security and our democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We look forward to the IRS complying with this decision and providing the requested documents so that Ways and Means can begin its oversight responsibilities for the Mandatory Presidential Audit Program.”

Judges consider Trump’s request for tax returns

The panel’s 3-0 decision completes another round in the legal battle between Trump – who promised as a presidential candidate to eventually release his tax returns but never did – and the committee, which argues he is authorized by law federal government to review anyone’s taxes in the process of creating stronger financial reporting and auditing legislation.

After Trump left, the committee renewed its 2021 request for tax returns and the Biden administration’s Treasury Department agreed to provide them, prompting a lawsuit from Trump.

Trying to keep his records private, Trump claimed the committee had no ‘legitimate legislative purpose’ to search for tax returns; that the committee violated the separation of powers; that the law authorizing the committee to review tax returns is “facially unconstitutional”; and that the Treasury Department, by agreeing to turn over the records, was violating Trump’s constitutional rights by retaliating against him.

The Appeal Board rejected all four arguments.

The committee has “identified a legitimate legislative purpose for which it requires information,” the decision says. “The mere fact that individual members of Congress may have political as well as legislative motivations is irrelevant. Indeed, it is rare for an individual member of Congress to work for legislative purposes without considering the political implications.

The status of the main investigations involving Donald Trump

As for the separation of powers, “this matter has required much discussion of the intrusion of Congress into the executive branch and the personal life of [Trump] and the burden these intrusions impose,” the decision reads. While this burden “is concrete”, it is “tenuous at best” and “insufficient to compel us to attach the President’s request for returns and feedback information”.

Rejecting Trump’s claim that the law that allows the committee to review tax returns is unconstitutional, the decision says, “This law can be properly applied in many circumstances, including that in court.”

And the panel rejected the claim that President Biden’s Treasury Department violated Trump’s constitutional rights by acting with an improper motive – retribution – when he accepted the committee’s request for the tax returns.

“The improper motive must be a cause of government action, ‘meaning that the adverse action against the plaintiff would not have been taken but for the retaliatory motive,'” the decision notes. Trump “cannot show that the Treasury’s decision to comply with the 2021 request would not have occurred absent a retaliatory motive.”

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