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Federal judge throws out Trump's lawsuit to withhold his taxes from Congress

A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit filed by former President Donald Trump, who was trying to block the release of his tax records to Congress. In his ruling, Judge Trevor McFadden deferred to the need for Congress to carry out "facially valid inquiries."

"A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries," wrote McFadden. "Even the special solicitude accorded former Presidents does not alter the outcome. The Court will therefore dismiss this case." 

The lawsuit brought by the former president stems from a 2019 request issued by the House Ways and Means Committee and its chairman, Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, to the Treasury Department for multiple years' worth of tax returns belonging to Trump and some of his businesses. The request was made under a law allowing Congress to request the tax papers of certain individuals from the IRS. 

House Democrats said they needed the records to inform potential reforms of the IRS program that governs presidential financial disclosure. 

Donald Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on July 11, 2021.  Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg/Getty

The Trump administration refused the request from the Democratic-controlled Committee, prompting the committee itself to sue Trump. 

Following the 2020 election and the subsequent transfer of power to President Biden, Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee dismissed their lawsuit and issued a fresh request for the tax records with the understanding that the new administration would comply with the request. 

Trump then responded by filing a lawsuit of his own, asking that a court order the tax papers be shielded. He said McFadden, who was appointed by him, should rule that the requests for his tax papers were "unlawful and unenforceable because they lack a legitimate legislative purpose," and instead motivated by politics. 

In Tuesday's decision, McFadden refused that request, citing the "narrow" role the judicial branch has in restricting the power of a Congressional committee.  

"The Committee need only state a valid legislative purpose. It has done so. A faithful application of binding precedent blocks the Court from any further analysis, whatever [Mr. Trump] might say about the motives behind the Committee's request," the judge ruled, despite seemingly agreeing with the former president that the House has shown "mixed motives underlying the 2021 Request."

McFadden acknowledged that the case before him was "in unchartered territory," and cautioned the exposure of the tax returns for any potential political motives the House committee may have.

"Anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of move that will return to plague the inventor," the judge warned. "It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the Chairman's right to do so. Congress has granted him this extraordinary power, and courts are loath to second guess congressional motives or duly enacted statutes. The Court will not do so here and thus must dismiss this case." 

McFadden stayed his ruling for 14 days to allow the former president time to appeal this ruling. Trump filed notice Wednesday that he is appealing McFadden's decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ruling comes just a day after lawyers for the former president were already in a D.C. Appeals Court fighting to keep other financial papers, held by accounting firm Mazars USA, out of the hands of the House Judiciary Committee.

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