WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On Thursday, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers appealed to a federal appeals court, arguing that a congressional committee had the right to demand the release of his tax returns.
The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee claimed to the District of Columbia Circuit that it had the jurisdiction to get the former president’s tax returns from the IRS.
During the hearing, conservative senior judge David Sentelle questioned Trump’s claims.
Trump’s lawyer Cameron Norris said the Ways and Means Committee has no legal justification to view the tax returns. Sentelle disagreed, stating that the committee may have both legitimate legislative and improper political motives for obtaining the tax returns.
“Your pleading may not work because a legislative actor may have dual intents,” Sentelle stated. “You say they do. And I ask: why can’t they have two?”
Trump’s financial affairs may be uncovered if the committee rules in Trump’s favour. After the intermediate appeals court rules, the case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson questioned whether the case should be remanded to a lower court for a new legal foundation, which would prolong the case.
Trump is appealing a December 2021 lower court judgement granting the Democratic-led committee sweeping authority to acquire a previous president’s tax returns.
Trump was the first president in 40 years not to release his tax returns, aiming to conceal his riches and the Trump Organization’s actions.
The IRS must provide the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee with any individual’s tax returns.
The committee sued in 2019 to get Trump’s tax returns.
Tax returns are needed to determine if the IRS is appropriately auditing presidential returns and if new legislation is required.
That argument is “pretextual” and “disingenuous,” according to Trump’s lawyers.
And Norris stated that if it gets Trump’s tax returns, it won’t keep them secret.
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Norris testified that the goal is to promptly reveal and publicise President Trump’s tax returns.
During Trump’s presidency, the Justice Department published a legal memo backing his claims.
And then in July 2021, after Trump lost his reelection bid, the Justice Department concluded the House committee had provided “sufficient reasons” to see the tax returns.
As a result of the Justice Department memo, Trump sued the Ways and Means Committee, seeking a declaration that it had exceeded its constitutional jurisdiction.
In December, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sided with Congress. McFadden said Trump was “wrong on the law” in trying to keep his tax returns hidden.
Trump’s tax returns were obtained from his accounting company last year by a Manhattan prosecutor, but not by the Ways and Means Committee.
Jan Wolfe reported; Scott Malone and Alistair Bell edited