A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that Donald Trump’s tax filings can be released by the Treasury Department, striking a death blow against the former president’s years-long crusade to keep them hidden from public scrutiny.
The decision, handed down in a 45-page opinion by Judge Trevor McFadden of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, specifically gives the House Ways and Means Committee access to Trump’s long-sought tax returns. The documents could then go to the committee for a vote on publicizing.
“A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries,” McFadden wrote. “Even the special solicitude accorded former presidents does not alter the outcome.”
The judge, however, did note the potential for unintended consequences in the case that Trump’s taxes are made public.
“Anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of move that will return to plague the inventor,” McFadden said. “It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the chairman’s right to do so.”
McFadden further granted Trump’s legal team a 14-day stay on the ruling to provide the former president ample time to appeal.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass, the committee chair, first requested Trump’ taxes back in 2019, arguing that the committee was seeking to review and improve the federal government’s presidential audit program.
Traditionally, the committee has held a broad right to request anyone’s tax information from the Department of Treasury. However, over the past two years, Trump’s legal team has refused to disclose them, claiming that the committee’s inquiry had no legitimate aim and was instead politically motivated.
“Just more harassment,” Eric Trump, Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization, wrote of the Democrats’ lawsuit in July. “The weaponization of politics and evilness of the far left is hard to comprehend.”
Shortly after Trump’s refusal to comply, the committee filed a lawsuit against the former president. This suit did not see much progress during the Trump administration. In July 2018, however, President Biden issued a 39 page Justice Department memo to Justice Department. noting that Neal “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Neal said that McFadden’s ruling was “no surprise.”
“The law is clearly on the committee’s side. I am pleased that we’re now one step closer to being able to conduct more thorough oversight of the I.R.S.’s mandatory presidential audit program.”