WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the impending transfer of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee after a three-year legal battle.
The court rejected without comment Trump’s plea for an injunction that would have prevented the Treasury Department from providing tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses to the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee for six years.
It was Trump’s second Supreme Court defeat in as many months, and third this year. In October, the court declined to comment on the legal battle surrounding the FBI’s search for Trump’s Florida estate, which revealed classified documents.
In January, the court refused to bar the National Archives from turning over documents to the House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Justice 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 data during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration said it is clear under federal law that the commission has the right to investigate taxpayer returns, including the president’s.
Lower courts agreed that the commission has broad powers to obtain tax returns and rejected Trump’s claims that it went too far, wanting only 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 the legal issues raised by Trump’s lawyers against counter-arguments from the administration and the House of Representatives.
Just over three weeks later, the court lifted Roberts’ order with no noted dissent.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The House argued that an order barring the IRS from issuing the tax return would give lawmakers “little, if any, time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is fast approaching its end.”
Had Trump persuaded 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 would almost certainly have dropped the archive request if the issue had not been resolved by then.
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 the state’s tax compliance. former president. A federal law says the Internal Revenue Service will “provide” each taxpayer’s returns to a handful of top legislators.
The Justice Department under the Trump administration had defended a decision by then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to withhold tax returns from Congress. Mnuchin argued that he could withhold the documents because he concluded they were wanted by Democrats for partisan reasons. A lawsuit followed.
After President Joe Biden took office, the committee renewed the request, seeking Trump’s tax returns and additional information for 2015-2020. The White House took the position that the request was valid and that the Treasury Department had no choice but to comply. Trump then tried to stop the transfer 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.