Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday temporarily blocked the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining years of federal income tax returns of former President Donald Trump and related business entities from the IRS.
Roberts’ order came a day after Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court requesting the delay, and two days before the IRS was set to give the committee the Republican’s tax returns.
The chief justice gave the Ways and Means Committee until Nov. 10 to respond to Trump’s application for the delay.
Trump wants the Supreme Court to block the committee from getting his tax returns and those of the related entities for the years 2015 through 2020 until he formally asks the high court to allow him to appeal lower court rulings that cleared the way for the records to be handed over.
The Democratic-controlled Ways and Means Committee has said it wants the returns as part of a probe of how the agency audits presidential taxes.
But Trump, who as a candidate and president broke four decades of tradition by refusing to publicly release his tax returns,argues the committee is just trying to embarass him and plans to make public his returns.
Trump’s application Monday was directed to Roberts because the chief justice handes emergency applications, such as this one, arising out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Dylan Peachey, a spokeswoman for the Ways and Means Committee, in a statement responding to Roberts’ order said that the committee “maintains the law is on our side, and will file a timely response as requested.”
Peachey also said that Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., “looks forward to the Supreme Court’s expeditious consideration.”
Trump’s lawyer William Consonoy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court does not automatically grant appeals.
And it is not clear if Trump will convince enough justices on the court, three of whom he appointed, to take his case. But if the court does so, it could prevent the committee from getting the returns for months, or even years.
Supreme Court cases can take months or longer to resolve.
And if Republicans regain majority control of the House of Representatives in next week’s midterm elections, they are sure to shut down the Ways and Means Committee’s effort to obtain Trump’s returns.
That committee first requested the records from the Treasury Department, the IRS’s parent, in 2019, when Trump was still president.
The panel sought Trump’s individual income tax returns and those of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and seven limited liability companies, one of which does business as Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The Treasury Department, at the time controlled by Trump appointee Steven Mnuchin, denied the request, saying it lacked legitimate purpose.
The committee then filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking to compel the department to hand over the returns.
In July 2021, months after Democratic President Joe Biden took office, the Treasury Department reversed its stance and said it had no choice but to comply with the committee’s request.
Trump then sued, seeking to block the returns from being turned over, arguing the committee lacked a legitimate legislative purpose and violated the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, in December rejected Trump’s arguments and ordered the IRS to give his returns to the committee.
Trump then appealed the order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But he lost that effort in August.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court, in a unanimous decision that month, noted that while tax returns, as a rule, are confidential under federal law, an exception is when the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee requests returns in writing from the secretary of the Treasury Department, the parent of the IRS.
Last week, the appeals court denied Trump’s request that a larger panel of judges on that court reconsider the case. That lead to his emergency application Monday asking the Supreme Court to intervene.