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Trump is asking the Supreme Court to bar Congress from obtaining his tax returns

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Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Robstown, Texas, US, on October 22, 2022.

Go Nakamura | Reuters

Former president Donald Trump asked Supreme Court on Monday to intervene in a case in which the IRS was ordered to turn over years of his income tax returns to a House Committee.

The request to Chief Justice John Roberts to bar the committee from receiving tax returns for the time being comes after Trump lost an attempt to overturn the court decision in a federal appeals court.

“This case raises important questions about the separation of powers that will affect every future president,” Trump’s lawyers said in an emergency statement.

Lawyers asked the court to act by Wednesday to delay an appeals court ruling that cleared the way for the IRS to deliver tax returns, giving Trump time to ask the High Court to hear an appeal of the ruling. But lawyers also said the Supreme Court could consider a request for a review of the case filed on Monday.

The statement accused the committee of trying to obtain Trump’s tax returns solely to release them to the public, not to review IRS audits of presidents, as the House panel said.

The request was made to Roberts because the chief judge has authority over emergency motions issued in cases like this one that stem from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

If the Supreme Court grants Trump’s request, it could prevent the Democratic-controlled committee from receiving the declarations for several more years — at least.

A Supreme Court case challenging this order could take several months or more.

And if Republicans regain control of the House majority in the upcoming midterm elections, before the Supreme Court case is decided, they are expected to end a three-year effort by the Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns.

That committee requested the tax returns of Trump and business entities associated with him as part of an investigation into how the Internal Revenue Service audits presidential tax returns. The IRS, which is a division of the Treasury Department, has the legal authority to audit the annual tax returns of sitting presidents.

The committee sued to obtain Trump’s 2015-2020 federal returns after then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with the committee’s request. Trump appointee Mnuchin said the group had no legitimate legislative purpose.

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Last December in Washington, D.C., federal judge Trevor McFadden, who was appointed by Trump, ruled that the Treasury Department should have turned over the tax returns as required. McFadden said that even if the committee’s request was politically motivated, as Trump claimed, its chairman stated a “valid legislative purpose” in seeking the return, as required by law.

Trump then appealed McFadden’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In August, a three-judge appeals court unanimously ruled against Trump.

The committee noted that while tax returns are generally confidential under federal law, one exception is when the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee requests such returns in writing from the Secretary of the Treasury.

“The chairman has identified a legitimate legislative purpose for which the information is required,” Judge David Santell wrote in the panel’s opinion. “At this stage, we are not allowed to go deeper.”

Trump then asked for his appeal to be heard again in the same court in a so-called en banc hearing, during which a majority of the court’s justices would consider his arguments.

On Thursday, 10 appeals court judges unanimously rejected Trump’s request. The same panel of judges rejected Trump’s request to stay the denial pending his appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in a statement Thursday, “The law has always been on our side. Former President Trump tried to delay the inevitable, but once again the Court has confirmed the strength of our position.”

“We’ve waited long enough — we need to begin oversight of the IRS mandatory presidential audit program as soon as possible,” Neal said.

Trump’s attorney, William Kansavoy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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