The US Supreme Court cleared the way for a House committee to get six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, dealing a major blow to the former president and giving Democrats a late but resounding triumph after a three-year battle.
Without explanation or any public dissents, the court on Tuesday rejected Trump’s bid to block the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from turning over the documents to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The IRS is now free to provide the returns and could do so imminently.
The Ways and Means Committee has been racing the calendar to obtain the records before Republicans assume control of the House in January.
A decision granting Trump’s request would have kept the records sealed until the new Congress convened.
“At long last the charade should today be over and we should get these documents transmitted to the desk of our committee chairman as soon as possible,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.
A lawyer representing Trump at the Supreme Court and a spokesman for the former president did not immediately respond to e-mail messages requesting comment.
A federal appeals court in Washington ruled on a 3-0 vote the committee was entitled to the documents.
A Treasury Department spokesman said on Tuesday the department will comply with the appeals court decision.
The committee said it needs the returns to consider potential legislation on presidential compliance with tax rules, public accountability and mandatory IRS audit policy for presidents.
“This rises above politics, and the Committee will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years,” said Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat.
The high court order lifts a temporary hold that Chief Justice John Roberts had imposed as the justices weighed Trump’s bid for a longer delay while they decided whether to take up his appeal.
The IRS had been poised to hand over the tax returns before Justice Roberts intervened.
Trump’s lawyers argued that the House panel lacked a legitimate legislative purpose and was seeking to make the documents public for political reasons.
The appeals court ruling “will undermine the separation of powers and render the office of the presidency vulnerable to invasive information demands from political opponents in the legislative branch”, Trump’s legal team told the Supreme Court.
The committee countered that the request “will burden the executive branch negligibly, if at all, because it pertains to a former president and seeks records that in large part modern presidents have routinely released voluntarily”.
The Biden administration backed the lawmakers.
“For nearly a century, this court has refused to entangle the judiciary in such inquiries into the motives alleged to have prompted a congressional request that is otherwise supported by a valid legislative purpose,” US Solicitor-General Elizabeth Prelogar argued.
The Ways and Means Committee has been seeking the documents since 2019, when it asked the IRS for Trump’s returns.
The panel cited a 1924 law that lets the leaders of three committees in Congress ask the US Treasury secretary for the returns of any taxpayer.
The Treasury Department refused to comply with the request while Trump was in office and the committee then went to court.
Trump picked up the fight on his own when the department under President Joe Biden said it would turn over the documents.