Federal court rules that House committee can access Trump’s tax records

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A federal appeals panel unanimously ruled Tuesday that a House committee can access former President Donald Trump’s tax records after a yearslong legal battle.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., agreed that the House Ways and Means Committee has the authority to obtain Trump’s tax records from the Treasury Department, upholding a district court ruling from late last year.

Trump's lawyers are all but certain to appeal the ruling.

NBC News has asked a Trump spokesman and a member of his legal team for comment.

The court ruling adds to Trump's legal woes after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday. A source familiar with the matter said the search was tied to classified information Trump is alleged to have taken with him from the White House to his resort in January 2021.

Tuesday's appeals court ruling is the latest twist in a multiyear legal fight over his tax records. A federal judge in December tossed out Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the House panel from obtaining his tax returns, rejecting his claim that Congress had no legitimate need to look at the returns and that Congress was simply snooping around to embarrass him.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., lauded the appeals court's "long-anticipated" opinion Tuesday. Neal first requested copies of Trump's federal tax returns in April 2019, a request the Treasury Department initially refused.

“With great patience, we followed the judicial process, and yet again, our position has been affirmed by the Courts," Neal said in a statement. "When we receive the returns, we will begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”

Neal had initially cited a federal law that requires the Treasury Department and the IRS to turn over individual tax returns when any of the three congressional tax committees demand them.

"The Chairman has identified a legitimate legislative purpose that it requires information to accomplish," the appeals court ruling says. "At this stage, it is not our place to delve deeper than this. The mere fact that individual members of Congress may have political motivations as well as legislative ones is of no moment. Indeed, it is likely rare that an individual member of Congress would work for a legislative purpose without considering the political implications."

If he appeals, Trump would have to ask the full circuit court to rehear the case or appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

The House committee's top Republican, Kevin Brady of Texas, urged Trump to appeal.

The ruling "unleashes a dangerous new political weapon," Brady said in a statement, arguing it would grant Congress the ability "to target and make public the tax returns of political enemies."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile, called the court's decision a "victory for the rule of law" Tuesday on Twitter.

"Access to the former president’s tax returns is crucial to upholding the public interest, our national security & our Democracy," Pelosi said.