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The US supreme court will allow a congressional committee to receive copies of Donald Trump’s tax returns, ending a three-year battle by the Democratic-led body to see the documents the former president has famously refused to release since his first White House bid.
The court did not accompany its decision with any public comment, but it rejected Trump’s plea for an order that would have prevented the treasury department from giving six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses to the House ways and means committee.
The influential committee will continue to be led by a Democratic party chair, in this case Massachusetts congressman Richard Neal, until the new Congress is sworn in in January with the Republicans in the majority and therefore filling committee chairs, following the midterm elections.
It was Trump’s second loss at the supreme court in as many months, and third this year.
In October, the court refused to step into the legal fight surrounding the FBI search of Trump’s Florida estate that turned up classified documents.
In January, the court refused to stop the National Archives from turning over documents to the special House panel investigating the 6 January 2021 insurrection at the Capitol by extremist supporters of then-president Trump who were trying to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only vote in Trump’s favor.
In the dispute over his tax returns, the treasury department had refused to provide the records during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration said federal law is clear that the committee has the right to examine any taxpayer’s return, including the president’s.
Lower courts agreed that the committee has broad authority to obtain tax returns and rejected Trump’s claims that it was overstepping and only wanted the documents so they could be made public.
The supreme court chief justice, John Roberts, imposed a temporary freeze on 1 November to allow the court to weigh the legal issues raised by Trump’s lawyers and the counter arguments of the administration and the House of Representatives.
Just over three weeks later, the court lifted Roberts’s order.
No supreme court justices on Tuesday recorded dissents to the order. The House ways and means committee in 2019 requested Trump’s returns under federal law, saying they were part of their investigation into Trump’s compliance with Internal Revenue Service auditing.
Trump has been fighting the matter in court ever since.
The treasury department is now cleared to hand the documents to the ways and means committee but it’s unclear what Democrats on the committee will be able to accomplish in the few weeks of congressional business left this year.
The justice department under the Trump administration had defended a decision by then treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin to withhold the tax returns from Congress. Mnuchin argued that he could withhold the documents because he concluded they were being sought by Democrats for partisan reasons. A lawsuit ensued.
After Biden took office, the committee renewed the request, seeking Trump’s tax returns and additional information from 2015 to 2020. The White House took the position that the request was a valid one and that the treasury department had no choice but to comply.
Trump then attempted to halt 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, too, went to the supreme court, which rejected Trump’s argument that he had broad immunity as president.
In 2020, the New York Times published damning information about Trump’s wealth and taxes after obtaining tax information about the then president going back two decades.
Documents showed chronic business losses and the fact that Trump paid barely any federal income tax, but he has not faced any conclusive legal consequences up to now and has boasted that a habit of tax avoidance “makes me smart”.
US supreme court allows Congress to view Trump’s tax returns | Donald Trump
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