Briefings: Appeals Exhausted, Neal Can Have Trump’s Taxes at Last…
UPDATED 2:23PM: To include reaction from Trump on Neal and his committee’s victory.
With weeks to spare until the incoming Republican majority takes his gavel, Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal is about to receive Donald Trump’s tax returns. In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied a stay of an Appeals Court ruling that the US Treasury Department can turn them over. That effectively ends Trumps years-long effort to block the Committee’s receipt of his returns.
Although federal law clearly lets Neal and his Senate counterpart request any tax return, Trump, while in the White House refused to comply. After Neal filed suit, the lower courts dithered while similar if not identical legal battles played out. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden took office and his administration supported disclosure. Last year a judge finally ruled in Neal’s favor and the DC Circuit concurred.
“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,” Neal said in a statement. “Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different. This rises above politics, and the Committee will now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.”
Neal has faced criticism for not rushing to seek Trump’s tax records as soon as he became chair of Ways & Means. Though he had assured the day after the 2018 election he would seek them. Neal has countered critics by saying he has been following the advice of the Democratic House’s legal counsel.
The Jazz Age law that gives him the prerogative to demand the returns has no exceptions. Still, in court Trump’s Treasury Department and, later, Trump and his corporations argued the request was invalid. In other words, it was not a proper exercise of congressional power. Looking back, there is no reason to believe under existing precedent, Trump should have won. More recent Supreme Court rulings that found he had to turn documents over in other circumstances all but doomed his case.
Trump responded on Truth Social, his personal social media outfit, with grace by blasting the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body,” he griped.
The question now is what happens next. Under the statute, Neal can disclose the returns to another requesting committee or refer the matter to the full House. Once there, little would stop the expiring Democratic majority from disclosing them. That could happen through resolution or just adding them to the congressional record. Those skeptical of Neal’s efforts all along doubt he will do anything with them. Alternatively, little would stop anyone leaking them to a reporter, but that could be a problematic precedent.
However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi also feted the Supreme Court’s order, which suggests something will happen. She also hinted that the House may push for additional legislation.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholds our Democracy, the rule of law and the Congress’ ability to execute its legislative and oversight responsibilities. Now, the Congress must enact legislation requiring Presidents and candidates for President to disclose their tax returns,” she said in a statement.
She went on to say that the ruling ensured Congress could guard the national interest and conduct oversight.
“The House looks forward to promptly receiving and reviewing these documents, and we extend our deepest thanks to Chairman Richard Neal for his deliberate, principled leadership in the fight to advance ethical, transparent governance For The People,” she continued.
On a practical level, some doubt the returns will reveal very much. Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told The New York Times that a lot was already known about Trump’s returns, in large part due to The Times’s reporting.
There’s no reason to think the transferal will take very much time. However, it was not immediately clear that it had happened as of Tuesday night.