Appeals court says Congress can seek Trump’s tax returns
An appeals court has denied for the second time President Donald Trump’s attempt to stop an accounting firm from turning over his financial documents to the House, making it the second tax case Trump’s lawyers say they are taking to the Supreme Court.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals said on Wednesday that a panel of eight judges out of 11 voted against allowing Trump to continue his appeal.
The decision is another loss stacked against Trump, after federal judges have repeatedly rebuked him and greenlighted the House’s effort as it also pursues his impeachment. The case, if Trump loses again with the Supreme Court, could deliver his tax returns or closely related financial documents into the hands of House Democrats.
The opinion reiterates the strong signal the court sent last month, when it upheld a lower court ruling that Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA must comply with a House subpoena of his tax documents and turn over eight years of accounting records.
Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said Wednesday that they will appeal the decision to Supreme Court, noting “well reasoned dissent” from three judges to Wednesday’s opinion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the new ruling in a statement Thursday, saying, “once again, the courts have resoundingly reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight and consider legislation on behalf of the American people.”
In a separate case, Trump faces a Thursday deadline to ask the Supreme Court to block a Manhattan grand jury subpoena for copies of his financial records and tax returns. His attorneys have previously said they intend to ask the Supreme Court to take up the New York case.
And in yet another new filing in a third case Wednesday night, Trump’s legal team asked a judge for a two-week buffer period if the US House asks for his tax returns through New York state. Congressional Democrats countered in that court filing that they’d like to write an argument this week responding to this request and have an in-person hearing before the judge makes a decision.
Courts have previously refused to curtail Congress’ subpoena power.
The majority of the appeals court did not give reasoning why they declined to hear Trump’s appeal on Wednesday. But two judges, Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao, both Trump appointees to the federal appellate bench, wrote that they disagreed with the vote and would have heard Trump’s arguments again.
Katsas, who served in the White House Counsel’s office before taking the bench, wrote that he wanted a larger panel of judges on the court to hear the case, which he said presents “exceptionally important questions regarding the separation of powers among Congress, the Executive Branch and the Judiciary.”
He said that because the records are “personal” and not related to the office of the presidency, the “unavailability” of an assertion of executive privilege “creates an open season on the President’s personal records.”
Rao, who also served in the Trump administration and also dissented from the three-judge panel’s opinion, charged that when the court allowed the subpoena to go forward it “shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment.”
She said that even though the House has subsequently authorized an impeachment inquiry, the committee in issuing the subpoena was not relying on impeachment power.
A third judge, Karen Henderson, appointed to the circuit by President George H.W. Bush, signed onto their reasoning.
The administration has continued to stand its ground against all efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns. Trump has claimed that ongoing IRS audits have stopped him from making his tax returns public, even though audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing tax returns.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Tammy Kupperman, Kevin Bohn and Devan Cole contributed to this story.