Former president Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and prevent members of Congress from obtaining his past tax returns in an appeal filed Monday. Should the court decline, the records are set to be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
“The Committee has no pressing need for Applicants’ information so it can study generic legislation about funding and regulating future IRS audits of future Presidents,” his attorney Cameron Norris wrote, saying the release of records would cause Trump “irreparable harm.”
Norris filed the request as he was arguing in front of the Supreme Court against using race as a factor in college admissions.
Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold while Trump continues a legal fight that began in 2019. But the Supreme Court could issue an emergency order keeping the records from being released this week.
Lawmakers said they needed Trump’s tax returns from his time in office to help evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits. Trump argued that their aims were actually to embarrass him politically, but federal judges have consistently ruled that the lawmakers established the “valid legislative purpose” required for disclosure.
Norris argued that the case “raises important questions about the separation of powers that will affect every future President,” because it concerns one branch of government pursuing personal records from another.
The appellate court found that as Trump was no longer president, and since all previous presidents going back decades had voluntarily released their tax returns, the request was “minimally intrusive.” But even if Trump were still president, the court found that the request would not upset the balance of power between branches of government. The court was also unmoved by Trump’s argument that his tax returns might become public.
“Congressional investigations sometimes expose the private information of the entities, organizations, and individuals that they investigate,” the panel wrote. “This does not make them overly burdensome. It is the nature of the investigative and legislative processes.”
The one Republican appointee on the three-judge panel said that while she “would place no significance on the fact that President Trump no longer holds the office,” she agreed that this request did “not rise to the level of a separation-of-powers violation.”
This is not the only case in which Trump is seeking to shield his financial information. The Supreme Court last year declined to block the release of Trump’s financial records for a New York state investigation, and in 2020 it upheld Congress’s right to subpoena that information with some limitations.