The Justice Department ruled last week that the Internal Revenue Service must submit Trump’s tax returns to Congress, but a federal judge is still pondering what could happen.
As the pressure mounts on the House of Representatives pursuing Trump’s tax information, tax returns are unlikely to be presented to Congress anytime soon – and Trump’s new filing is likely to spark several new rounds of legal arguments.
Moving to court on Wednesday makes Trump a party in the lawsuit. For the past two years, his legal team has been essentially on the sidelines as the House of Representatives battled the case with the executive branch.
Trump is calling on federal court to permanently prevent the Treasury Department from issuing its tax returns and to order Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to end “all ongoing audits” of Trump and his companies.
Trump’s team is also trying to reimburse their legal costs, according to their new file.
“The main purpose of the requests is to obtain and disclose information from interveners in order to improperly conduct law enforcement or to pursue some other improper aim – not to study federal law,” argued Trump’s lawyers in the filing on Wednesday. “Chairman Neal’s demands have always been a transparent attempt by one political party to harass an official of the other party because they dislike his politics and his speech.”
Last week, the Biden Justice Department reversed the Trump administration’s course, saying the Treasury Department must hand over Trump’s tax returns if the Ways and Means Committee asks.
A federal judge, Trevor McFadden, who was appointed to the DC District Court by Trump, will review Trump’s lawsuit in court and likely set a timetable for further trials. There is also a three-day court-imposed lockdown that would prevent the IRS from filing tax returns immediately.
Three years of struggle
The lawsuit dates back to 2019 when the House Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department after the committee sought and failed to receive tax returns from the IRS. The House of Representatives demanded six years from Trump’s tax returns and other information on the then president personally and eight of his entities, including his Bedminster golf club and the trust that ran its business during the presidency.
The committee had requested tax returns under a little-known section of US tax law that allows it to collect the tax returns of every American.
At the time, the Trump Justice Department backed the Treasury Department and ignored the request from Congress. The court case was put on hold amid several other branch-of-government confrontations.
The Ways and Means Committee has argued that it needs the tax returns to verify that the IRS audits of presidents are working properly – in line with the committee’s regular legislative responsibilities. That summer, Neal renewed his six-year Trump tax filing, citing the committee’s interest in the IRS President’s audit program and in making laws aware of Trump’s business entanglements, which were larger and more screened than any other modern president .
In general, the federal courts cannot dictate how Congress investigates facts when it is working on legislation. But Trump’s side disagrees with what the House of Representatives is saying and with its reasoning.
In this case, Trump has called the Ways and Means Committee’s arguments on tax returns “a retrospective rationalization to win this case.”
Trump’s lawyers also enliven a refrain Trump has used for years to explain why he hasn’t published his tax returns and disregards the tradition of every other recent presidential candidate. They claim its taxes are still “the subject of ongoing IRS audits,” and the work on its own is “process-like,” according to Wednesday’s filing. Trump’s attorneys argue that the IRS could be swayed by Congress investigating its officials’ work on Trump’s taxes – a possible violation of his constitutional right to due process.
This story has been updated with additional details.