Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked a House committee from obtaining Donald Trump’s tax returns on Tuesday, issuing an administrative order that suggests the Supreme Court will not act on the former president’s emergency petition to shield his finances from congressional investigators until after the midterm elections next week.
The order issued on Tuesday gives the House Ways and Means Committee until November 10 at noon to submit its answer, after which the chief justice or the entire court may act on Mr. Trump’s request.
This timetable essentially delays the Internal Revenue Service’s transfer of tax records to the committee as a result of a lower court’s ruling. Mr. Trump’s attorneys stated that action was anticipated on Thursday if the Supreme Court did not intervene.
The Ways and Means Committee will file a quick response, according to Dylan Peachey, a spokesperson for chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts). He “looks forward to the Supreme Court’s prompt review,” according to Peachey.
Mr. Trump did not fulfill his 2016 campaign vow to reveal his tax returns, a practice followed by every major-party contender for president since 1976 and resumed by President Biden. Following the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, the Ways and Means Committee sought the information pursuant to legislation permitting its chairman to receive such documents.
The tax code requires the Treasury Department to give the committee chairman the returns of any taxpayer upon request. However, during his administration, Mr. Trump and the Treasury Department contended that the committee lacked a valid legislative need for the material, resulting in years of litigation.
Mr. Trump’s request to reconsider a three-judge panel’s order mandating the release of the documents was denied by the United States Court of Appeals last week. Lower courts have generally sided with the House committee.
Tuesday’s order from Chief Justice Roberts, who handles such petitions from the D.C. Circuit, does not necessarily presage the court’s judgment. Still, it does imply that it won’t come until after the November 8 midterm elections. Republicans are anticipated not to renew the request if they win the House in January.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.), a senior Ways and Means Committee member, tweeted, We’ve been waiting 1,308 days for Trump’s tax returns, which is almost as long as the American Civil War. Pascrell added that the Supreme Court should stop this farce rather than prolong it with more foolishness.
Republicans have not supported efforts by Democrats to get Mr. Trump’s tax returns. If they gain control of the House in the upcoming election, as predicted by election experts, they will assume leadership of the Ways and Means Committee in January.
It is doubtful that they would repeat any requests that were not completed by that time, and it is uncertain what would happen to the committee’s inquiry or the papers if it got the data in November or December. If the Treasury Department provides the committee with papers, they are not automatically made public. In the past, the committee reviewed tax documents in secret sessions and then decided to reveal the material.
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has the same authority to seek documents from the Treasury Department. Democrats presently control the Senate, but a Republican takeover is possible.
The attorneys for Mr. Trump argue that the committee should be prevented from receiving the documents. At the same time, he pursues additional legal challenges because, if submitted, any possible harm caused by the exposure of the information would be irreversible.