The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied former President Donald Trump’s request to block the U.S. Treasury Department from handing over copies of Trump’s tax returns to congressional Democrats.
The court’s order lifted a temporary hold that Chief Justice John Roberts put on a lower court’s ruling from August that said Democrats could have the returns.
A longstanding federal law says Congress can have access to private tax information by making a formal request to the Treasury Department. Trump’s arguments that Democrats were just out to get him have finally failed in court.
“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of counsel, and finally, our case has been affirmed by the highest court in the land,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
“Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different,” Neal said, adding that the committee “will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.”
It’s not clear what Democrats will do with the documents; Neal has previously said they would not immediately make them public.
Trump was the first presidential candidate in modern history to refuse to disclose his tax returns, which contain details about income and how much tax someone paid.
Neal asked for six years of Trump’s tax returns in April 2019, arguing lawmakers needed the material to evaluate the IRS tradition of automatically auditing the president and vice president every year.
The Trump administration refused to comply with the request, claiming Democrats only wanted to publicize Trump’s taxes in order to make him look bad. Democrats issued a subpoena and took their case to court, where it became one of several legal battles testing the fundamental power of Congress to conduct investigations as part of the legislative process. For the most part, courts have sided with Congress.
In their last-ditch effort to block the release, Trump’s lawyers repeated their arguments in briefs at the Supreme Court this month, adding that granting Democrats’ request would leave future presidents “vulnerable to invasive information demands from political opponents in the legislative branch.”
Democrats noted in their brief that they were only seeking records that most presidents “have routinely released voluntarily.” They also argued that further delay would leave Democrats “little or no time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is quickly approaching its end.”
On Tuesday, without explanation, the Supreme Court vacated its earlier order temporarily staying a lower court’s ruling in favor of Democrats.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had called the argument that disclosing tax returns would overly burden future administrations “tenuous at best.”