Former President Donald Trump continues to face what could be weaponized political pressure from the Justice system in the nation. A federal appeals panel unanimously ruled that a House committee can, in fact, access the former president’s tax records after a battle in the courts that has lasted for years.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. agreed that the House Ways and Means Committee has the authority to obtain Trump’s tax records from the Treasury Department. This decision is upholding a district court ruling from a decision given late last year.
It is almost a certainty that lawyers for Trump will appeal this ruling. A spokesperson for the former president and a member of his legal team was asked by NBC News for a comment, but none was given at this time.
This court ruling is now compounded by the recent FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago personal residence in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday. One source who is in the know said that the search was tied to classified information that Trump is alleged to have taken out of the White House and placed in his resort home in January of 2021.
The appeals court on Tuesday gave this ruling as the latest step in this multi-year battle of the president’s tax records. This decision reinforced a federal judge’s decision in December to toss out Trump’s lawsuit that sought to block the House panel from getting his tax returns. They rejected Trump’s opinion that Congress did not have a legitimate need to look at returns. He maintained that Congress was just snooping around to embarrass him.
Richard Neal (D-Mass) praised the appeals court’s “long-anticipated” opinion. Neal requested copies of Trump’s federal tax returns in April 2019, a request the Treasury Department initially refused.
“With great patience, we followed the judicial process, and yet again, our position has been affirmed by the Courts,” Neal said in a statement. “When we receive the returns, we will begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”
Neal was using a federal law that requires the Treasury Department and the IRS to turn over individual tax returns when any of the three congressional tax committees demand them.
“The Chairman has identified a legitimate legislative purpose that it requires information to accomplish,” the appeals court ruling says. “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. Indeed, it is likely rare that an individual member of Congress would work for a legislative purpose without considering the political implications.”
If and when Trump’s lawyers appeal this decision, they will have to request that the full circuit court rehearse the case or they could appeal the case directly to the Supreme Court.
Texas Representative Kevin Brady, the House committee’s top GOP, is urging Trump to appeal. He said that the ruling “unleashes a dangerous new political weapon.” He also noted that this would give Congress the ability “to target and make public the tax returns of political enemies.”
On the other side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was a “victory for the rule of law.”
“Access to the former president’s tax returns is crucial to upholding the public interest, our national security & our Democracy,” Pelosi said.
Wow. There’s no grandstanding there by the House Speaker.
This has not been a good week for Donald Trump. It will be interesting to see if he stays quiet or comes against all of this like a bull in a china shop.