Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Democrat Effort to Obtain Trump Tax Returns

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
August 9, 2022Politics
Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Democrat Effort to Obtain Trump Tax Returns
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on Aug. 6, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The Democrat effort to obtain six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns has a legitimate legislative purpose that is not clearly unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Aug. 9.

Trump and his lawyers have said that the request, from Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), exceeds the investigative powers of Congress. The appeals court panel found that the request “articulates a clear legislative purpose on a matter which legislation could be had,” the Presidential Audit Program, as well as possible legislation that would help IRS workers conducting the presidential audits.

“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,” the panel said in a 29-page ruling.

It also rejected arguments from Trump that the request violated separation of powers, or separation between the branches of the U.S. government, ruling that Trump “failed to demonstrate a burden that would outweigh the Committee’s need for the requested information.”

Neal’s request, first made in 2019 and re-submitted in 2021 after President Joe Biden took office, asks for six years of Trump’s returns, starting the year before Trump took office.

The U.S. Department of Treasury, citing a Department of Justice legal opinion, refused to comply with the initial request. But the Department of Justice reversed course in 2021, finding the new request was valid. The Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, then said it would comply.

Trump and others sued.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, turned down the suit, saying the intent to review the Presidential Audit Program was valid even as he acknowledged that public statements from Democrats indicate they will make public Trump’s returns after acquiring them.

The appeals court panel on Tuesday upheld McFadden’s ruling.

Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) speaks in Washington on Oct. 26, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Neal Cheers Ruling, Which Is Put on Hold

“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. When we receive the returns, we will begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program,” Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

The panel said it expected to receive the returns “immediately,” but the appeals court entered a seven-day hold on the order to give Trump’s team time to file a petition to rehear the case, or for the full court to take it up.

The panel consisted of judges David Sentelle, a Reagan appointee; Karen LeCraft Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee; and Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee.

Henderson, in a concurring opinion, expressed concern about Congress harassing a president in order to pressure him into taking certain actions.

“I do not believe this concern can be dismissed so casually as a mere possibility,” she said, pointing out how the Supreme Court in a similar cause said that a congressional demand “may aim to harass the President or render him ‘complaisan[t] to the humors of the Legislature'” and how the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee made known while Trump was in office that it would keep investigating him, regardless of whether he won the 2020 election.

“Although we cannot know the extent to which the requests and investigations influenced—or were intended to influence—President Trump’s conduct while in office, it is not far-fetched to believe that such intrusive inquiries could have a chilling effect on a President’s ability to fulfill his obligations under the Constitution and effectively manage the Executive Branch,” Henderson said, adding later that “a more searching inquiry into the burdens imposed by the Committee’s request is warranted given the core constitutional principle at issue.”

From The Epoch Times

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