Congress Inches One Step Closer To Getting Trump Tax Returns

Trump is likely to appeal the ruling.
US President Donald Trump speaks after signing a tax reform bill in the Oval Office of the White House December 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SM... US President Donald Trump speaks after signing a tax reform bill in the Oval Office of the White House December 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS

After more than two years of waiting, a D.C. federal judge on Tuesday allowed a request from Congress for Trump’s tax returns to go forward.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden for the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee, approved a request from the House Ways and Means Committee to dismiss Trump’s claims.

But the ruling doesn’t mean that the panel will soon receive the returns, first requested in April 2019. The ruling’s enforcement is delayed for two weeks so that Trump can file an expected appeal.

The case has moved at a glacial pace, with panel chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) reupping the request for Trump’s returns this year, and with the Office of Legal Counsel reversing a Trump-era opinion in July 2021 and thereby opening the door for the returns to be handed over.

The Trump administration refused to honor the request when it was initially made, echoing the then-president in calling it part of a vindictive campaign of harassment while claiming that the demand lacked a legislative purpose.

At its core, however, there was no real legal dispute to be had: the House Ways and Means Committee is one of the three congressional panels whose chairs are empowered, by law, to request the individual returns of any filer. Congress did so with Richard Nixon, discovering in the 1970s that the IRS had given him favorable treatment while in office.

McFadden went as far as he could in the opinion in siding with Trump, analyzing statements by both Reps. Neal and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about wanting to get Trump’s returns.

“They suggest at least some mixed motives for Chairman Neal’s request; specifically, that he wants to expose former President Trump,” McFadden wrote.

But he added that though he found the statements “troubling, the law in question is clear that Congress “need only state a valid legislative purpose. It has done so.”

McFadden somewhat begrudgingly approved the motion to dismiss on other grounds as well. The committee’s stated purpose in making the request was to consider legislation on the IRS’s Presidential Audit Program – “One wonders how much the returns of one President can say about the Program,” McFadden deadpanned.

McFadden concluded by cautioning Neal not to publish Trump’s returns.

“Anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of
move that will return to plague the inventor,” McFadden wrote. ” It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the Chairman’s right to do so. Congress has granted him this extraordinary power, and courts are loath to second guess congressional motives or duly enacted statutes.”

Read the opinion here:

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