The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Federal court won’t wait for U.S. Supreme Court to release Trump taxes

Donald Trump asked a court to delay the release of his tax records. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

A federal court on Thursday cleared the way for Donald Trump’s records to be handed over to Democratic lawmakers.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to reconsider an August ruling from three judges that gave a House committee the right to Trump’s tax returns for 2015 to 2020. The former president can still challenge the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the appeals court declined a request from Trump to automatically hold the release of records pending that challenge.

The House Ways & Means Committee sought the records in 2019, saying they would inform legislation to improve the way presidents are audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Under Trump, the Treasury Department refused to hand over the documents; under President Biden, Trump sued to bar the agency from doing so. He argued the lawmakers’ true purpose was political. But the appeals panel agreed with a lower court that lawmakers had “a legitimate legislative purpose” in examining the records, which was to assess whether the current audit system is sufficient.

“It is not our place to delve deeper than this,” the appeals panel wrote. “The mere fact that individual members of Congress may have political motivations as well as legislative ones is of no moment.”

The original order from the court said a mandate to release the returns would be issued a week after all issues were resolved.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), said in a statement that “the law has always been on our side.”

“Former President Trump has tried to delay the inevitable, but once again, the Court has affirmed the strength of our position,” the statement said. “We’ve waited long enough—we must begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program as soon as possible.”

Trump broke with other major presidential nominees in refusing to release his tax returns during the campaign and while in office declined to divest himself of business holdings that profited from both the federal government and foreign powers. In a separate lawsuit, the House Oversight Committee also sought financial records from Trump’s accounting firm, which made a deal to hand material over in September.

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