A federal judge on Tuesday blocked an effort by former President Donald Trump to prevent the release of his tax returns to a congressional committee.
The judge’s ruling is the latest in the legal wrangling over Trump’s tax returns, which he promised to release at the start of his presidency but has instead fought to keep secret. Trump and his lawyers have argued Democrats are seeking his tax returns for political gain and not any legitimate oversight function.
“But even if the former president is right on the facts, he is wrong on the law,” wrote U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in his ruling. “A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries.”
In 2019, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, invoked a federal law that requires the Treasury Department to provide individual tax returns when requested by any of Congress’ three tax committees. Congressional Democrats sued after the Treasury Department denied the request.
McFadden also stayed his ruling for 14 days to give Trump’s legal team a chance to appeal.
Trump didn’t immediately issue a statement in response to the ruling.
Neal previously stated he wanted the returns to better understand an auditing program of presidential tax returns.
But McFadden wrote in his ruling that both Neal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “plausibly show mixed motives underlying” their request. He pointed to previous statements from Pelosi that she was continuing investigations of Trump because she wanted to “see him in prison.”
The Trump-appointed judge also cautioned Neal on disclosing Trump’s tax returns publicly.
“Public disclosure of another’s tax returns is a grave offense, and prior committee chairmen have wisely resisted using (the law) to publicize individuals’ returns,” wrote McFadden. “Anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of move that will return to plague the inventor.”
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