Donald Trump’s day went from bad to worse when the DC Court of Appeals ruled that the House Committee on Ways and Means can get copies of his business and personal tax returns. The three judge panel, appointed by Reagan, Bush the elder, and Obama, upheld a decision of a District Court judge appointed by Trump himself. The Deep State strikes again!
In April of 2019, Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal requested Trump’s tax returns from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, citing §6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, under which he was unambiguously entitled to get it.
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request[.]
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Rettig’s boss, refused, claiming to have looked into Neal’s soul and found no legitimate legislative purpose there.
The committee sued in July of 2019, pointing out that the IRS is legally obligated to audit the president and vice president every year, and that Congress has every right to inspect the president’s return as a part of ensuring compliance with the audit law. Of course, they wouldn’t have had to sue if Trump had just released his tax returns like every other president, as he promised he would.
After Joe Biden was elected, the Treasury Department reversed its position and said that it intended to hand over the returns, at which point the committee dropped its suit. But Trump filed a cross complaint against Treasury and the IRS seeking to enjoin them from forking it over.
In December of 2021, US District Judge Trevor McFadden, a very Trump-y Trump judge, told the former president to GTFO, but stayed his order pending appeal to the DC Circuit. And a mere nine months later, here we are!
The panel rejected Trump’s claims that the committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose.
The Chairman has identified a legitimate legislative purpose that it requires information to accomplish. At this stage, it is not our place to delve deeper than this. The mere fact that individual members of Congress may have political motivations as well as legislative ones is of no moment.
If you feel like reading 15 pages of separation of powers analysis, have at it. Or you could just cut to the chase and accept that the court looked at it six ways from Sunday and found that “the Request did not violate separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor.” And they weren’t biting on the specious First Amendment arguments either.
TL, DR: You lose. Again.
“With great patience, we followed the judicial process, and yet again, our position has been affirmed by the Courts. I’m pleased that this long-anticipated opinion makes clear the law is on our side,” Chairman Neal said today. “When we receive the returns, we will begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”
As of this writing, Trump hasn’t announced whether he intends to appeal. He’s far too busy screeching about the “raid” on Mar-a-Lago at the moment. But it seems a safe bet that he’ll at least attempt a Hail Mary pass to Clarence, Sam, Neil, Brett, and Amy, since those assholes have given up pretending to be anything but partisan warriors. But this case, like the National Archives one in which they refused to intervene to stop the House January 6 Select Committee getting Trump’s presidential records, is probably going to be a tough sell. Finding for Trump would effectively handicap Republican investigations of the Biden family, a top priority if and when the GOP takes back the House next year. It’s a safe bet that one of the first things a Republican majority in the House will do is demand that the IRS hand over Hunter Biden’s tax returns, and a ruling against Trump here might give the IRS a reason to push back.
So, maybe the conservatives will just do the old man a solid and stay the release of Trump’s taxes while they think about it for six months, concluding next winter that the lower courts were right after all, just in time for Kevin McCarthy to take back the speakers’ gavel and withdraw the request. LOL!
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