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Supreme Court blocks House from Trump’s taxes, for now

The former president is back at the high court only weeks after the justices refused to get involved in his legal battle with the Justice Department over classified documents.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Congress cannot access the tax returns of former President Donald Trump until the Supreme Court considers the issue on the merits.

Trump had requested a stay from the high court only a day earlier; the committee could have received Trump’s records as early as Thursday if the court had not intervened. The court's intervention, a brief order signed by Chief Justice John Roberts, came this morning. It gives the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee until Thursday, Nov. 10, to submit its response. 

The House Ways and Means Committee, led by Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, wants to review six years of Trump’s personal and business filings. Neal claims the committee needs the records as part of a review of the IRS audit process for presidents and vice presidents. Trump claims, however, that the committee is seeking his taxes only to release his tax information to the public. 

“The Committee’s purpose in requesting President Trump’s tax returns has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the President’s tax information to the public,” Cameron Norris, an attorney with Consovoy McCarthy representing Trump, wrote in his application before the court. 

While lower courts rejected Trump's claims that the committee was overstepping, Trump calls those decisions erroneous and require high court intervention since the matter implicates separation-of-powers questions that will affect every future president. 

“This error will hamstring the President in disputes over any future demands for information,” Norris wrote. “If allowed to stand, it will undermine the separation of powers and render the office of the Presidency vulnerable to invasive information demands from political opponents in the legislative branch. Review is of the utmost importance, and the Court should preserve its ability to grant it — not just for one ‘particular President,’ but also for ‘the Presidency itself.’”

The ongoing legal battle over Trump’s tax returns began in 2019 when Neal formally requested the former president’s records. Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin withheld the tax returns from Congress, citing the committee’s supposed partisan motives. 

The case was stayed while another legal fight over Trump’s taxes in New York proceeded. During this time, President Joe Biden took office. 

Facing a renewed request for Trump’s records, including additional information from 2015–20, the White House informed the district court that it would comply with the committee’s request for Trump’s records. The district court said the committee could access Trump’s records, and the D.C. Circuit affirmed. 

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