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Appeals court won’t review House request for Trump tax returns

The decision paves the way for a potential Supreme Court appeal

Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., speaks with a reporter on the House steps after a vote in the Capitol in July.
Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., speaks with a reporter on the House steps after a vote in the Capitol in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A federal appeals court in Washington declined Thursday to revisit a ruling that said the House Ways and Means Committee could gain access to former President Donald Trump’s tax records.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to revisit an opinion from a three-judge panel of the same appeals court from August that sided with Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass.

The decision paves the way for a potential Supreme Court appeal, which Trump’s attorneys have hinted at in court filings, in the long-running litigation from the committee request for Trump’s personal tax records.

Neal praised the decision in a statement Thursday, saying 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,” Neal said. “We’ve waited long enough — we must begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program as soon as possible.”

The committee requested Trump’s personal returns last year under a provision of law that allows the Ways and Means Committee to review personal tax records. Neal argued that it would be used to assess the presidential audit program and other tax laws.

Trump intervened after the Biden administration said it would comply with the request. Trump argued that Democrats intended to use the returns against him politically or to enhance tax oversight of the presidency, in violation of the separation of powers.

The three-judge panel rejected that argument, and Trump then sought review from the full D.C. Circuit. The full court rejected the request in a one-page order Thursday.

The committee had never before requested the returns of a sitting president. However, Trump himself also broke long-standing precedent by refusing to release his returns since launching his campaign in 2015, citing an ongoing audit.

Every president since Richard Nixon has released their tax returns, and Nixon also did so while under audit.

Neal launched the suit in 2019 while Trump was still in office, after the Treasury Department refused to comply with Neal’s request for the returns. The agency called Neal’s reasons pretextual.

The panel reissued the request in 2021, which the Biden administration said it would comply with. Trump intervened in the case, reiterating many arguments he had made while he was in office that the panel’s motivations were political.

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