Trump Leaves Where He Started: Fighting Tax Return Release

(Bloomberg) President Donald Trump’s lawyers made a preemptive move to stop congressional Democrats from obtaining his tax returns once President-elect Joe Biden takes power, asking a judge for an Inauguration Day hearing in a case that could threaten the secrecy of his closely guarded financial information.

The Democrats in the last Congress ran out of time in their efforts to enforce a subpoena demanding that the Treasury Department turn over Trump’s tax information, but the new Congress could re-issue the subpoena in the coming days. And at noon on Wednesday, Biden will take control of the White House, making it possible that the Justice Department could reverse its position in the case and simply hand over the records.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington granted a request from Trump’s legal team to hold a hearing in the case, scheduling a call for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, just hours after Biden is set to be sworn in. In a court filing, Trump’s lawyers said they would argue that the judge should guarantee them at least 72 hours’ notice before the new administration provides any documents to Congress, giving them a window to block the handover in court.

The last-minute legal maneuvering stems from a case that began in 2019, when the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Ways and Means sued to enforce its subpoenas for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, after the Trump administration refused to turn over the information.

Trump’s lawyers said they contacted both the House committee and the Justice Department “in an attempt to resolve this issue.” The House declined to say whether it would renew its request for the tax returns, while the Justice Department said it was “not in a position at this time to speak for the incoming administration,” according to the Trump lawyers’ court filing.

A lawyer for the House Democrats didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

After the Ways and Means lawsuit was filed, two other tax cases -- involving the president’s accountants and bankers -- reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress could not compel the release of the financial records, at least for the time being. Those cases were sent back to the lower courts to assess whether Congress should narrow the scope of the information it sought.

A potential request by the new Congress is only one way that Trump could lose control of his taxes, with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance seeking them as part of a criminal investigation. The New York Times last year published an extensive report based on Trump’s taxes after obtaining copies of his returns.


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