Federal appeals court panel rules Congress can get Trump’s tax returns

  • A federal appeals court panel ruled that Congress could obtain Trump’s tax returns.
  • The three-judge panel ruled that Congress’ request for Trump’s return was “legitimate.”
  • Judge David Sentelle also dismissed concerns that Congress could intimidate future presidents with such requests.

A federal appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that House lawmakers can obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns from the IRS.

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David B. Sentelle wrote that House Democrats’ request for Trump’s return “did not violate separation of powers principles” and that lawmakers on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee have a legitimate reason to obtain the returns to better monitor the tax authorities’ guidelines for the audit of sitting presidents.

Sentelle, a Reagan appointee, wrote that Trump’s concerns about some of his private financial information potentially being made public did not outweigh the lawmakers’ requests.

“This is certainly inconvenient, but not to the extent that it represents an unconstitutional burden that violates the separation of powers,” Sentelle wrote in his 33-page opinion. “Congressional investigations sometimes disclose the private information of the entities, organizations, and individuals that they investigate. This does not overly burden them. That is the nature of the investigative and legislative processes.”

The court was also unmoved by arguments that allowing Congress to obtain Trump’s returns would lead to an irrevocable severance of the relationship between two key branches of government, potentially opening up future presidents to threats from lawmakers who could threaten to disclose their financial affairs.

“Although it is possible that Congress may seek to threaten the sitting president with an invasive request afterward
When he leaves office, every president enters office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as every other citizen when he leaves office,” the judge wrote. “This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a flaw.”

The ruling does not mean that Trump’s returns will be made public, although Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has previously said that some information may be released in a full report to the House of Representatives. The panel said shortly after its decision that it expected to obtain the “requested tax returns and audit files promptly.”

As a presidential candidate, Trump broke decades of precedence by refusing to release any of his tax returns. As president, he and his lawyers have repeatedly fought to compel him to turn over his tax returns or other sensitive financial documents.

The news comes just a day after FBI agents in an unrelated case raided Trump’s private home in Florida. Agents reportedly visited Mar-a-Lago to investigate whether Trump handled classified information properly.

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