Trump taxes: Supreme Court clears Democrats to see returns

Trump speaking to reporters
Trump speaking to reporters

The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for ex-President Donald Trump's tax forms to be released to a Democratic-controlled congressional committee.

The justices rejected Mr Trump's bid in October to block a lower court's ruling that granted the panel's request for his financial records.

The move is a blow to Mr Trump, who has for years kept his returns sealed.

He criticised the decision on Wednesday and said the Supreme Court had "lost its honour".

Mr Trump became the first president in 40 years not to release his taxes after announcing his first presidential run.

The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee has been seeking access to his records since 2019.

Mr Trump, who launched his third campaign for the White House last week, is facing several investigations related to his business practices. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Supreme Court's brief response on Tuesday did not note dissent from any of the judges.

The decision means the US treasury department can deliver the tax returns from 2015-20 for Mr Trump and some of his businesses to the Democratic-controlled committee.

It comes just before the Republicans take control of the House after this month's midterm elections.

Mr Trump hit out at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and said it had "become nothing more than a political body".

"Why would anybody be surprised that the Supreme Court has ruled against me, they always do!" he wrote in a post on his social media platform Truth Social.

Democrats beat the buzzer - barely

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter
Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

Donald Trump was almost able to run out the clock on the congressional request to view his tax returns.

Almost.

With just over a month left of Democratic control of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court has given the green light for the treasury department to provide the documents to the Ways and Means Committee.

Given that the treasury department is run by the Biden administration, the process of handing over the documents should proceed expeditiously.

Democrats won't have long to review them before Republicans take over on 3 January, however.

And coming up with any proposed changes to federal law regarding presidential tax returns - the stated purpose of the congressional request - seems a pointless effort with the little time remaining before congressional adjournment.

But a few weeks may be long enough to unearth evidence of any unusual or potentially improper accounting by Mr Trump - and for those details to leak to the public.

And that, many assume, was the real motive behind the request.

Mr Trump has notched two other defeats this year from the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, three of whose justices he appointed.

In October, the court refused to weigh in on the legal fight over the FBI search of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Agents served a warrant at the estate in August on suspicion that the former president improperly handled classified documents.

In January, the court refused to act to stop the National Archives from handing over documents to the committee investigating the 6 January 2021 riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol.

Mr Trump has rejected the Ways and Means Committee's hunt for his taxes as politically motivated.

The chairman of the committee, Congressman Richard Neal, said in a statement that lawmakers "will now conduct the oversight that we've sought for the last three and a half years". He did not say whether the committee plans to publicly release Mr Trump's tax statements.

Last year, a Trump-appointed judge on the court of appeals in Washington DC ruled that the House did have a legitimate need to review the forms.

The committee argued it needed to see Mr Trump's records to determine if tax officials were properly auditing presidential candidates, and whether any new legislation was necessary.

They had argued to the lower court that Mr Trump's refusal blocked Congress from conducting oversight of the executive and judicial branches.