Appeals Court Rules Congress Can Seek Trump's Tax Returns: Reports

A federal appeals court let stand a previous ruling in favor of lawmakers who have long been trying to obtain the president's tax records, according to media reports.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that lawmakers can seek eight years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, escalating a long battle between the White House and Congress.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit let stand a previous ruling against Trump that affirmed Congress’ authority to request the president’s tax returns, according to The Washington Post and Politico

In October, a three-judge panel rejected Trump’s attempt to block Congress from subpoenaing his accounting firm, Mazars USA. In its ruling Wednesday, the court denied Trump’s request to have a full panel of judges rehear that decision.

The court had previously said it would put any ruling against Trump on hold for seven days to give the president’s attorneys time to decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to take on the case, according to the Post. Trump has appointed two of the five Supreme Court justices that make up the conservative majority.

“In light of the dissents we will be seeking review at the Supreme Court,” Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow told Politico on Wednesday. The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

House Democrats have been trying since Trump’s candidacy to get hold of his tax returns to investigate potential conflicts of interest in his financial disclosures. The White House has so far refused to turn them over to Congress.

The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm records earlier this year after Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified that the president had exaggerated his wealth when seeking loans.

In October, two of the three judges on the court’s panel ruled that the House issued its subpoena for “legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose,” which is what Trump’s lawyers alleged.

“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses the authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Judge David S. Tatel and Judge Patricia A. Millett wrote in the Oct. 11 ruling.

The dissenting judge, Trump nominee Neomi Rao, said the House should use its impeachment powers if it wants to investigate potential instances of wrongdoing by the president.

Now the House is doing just that. It launched an investigation into the president for potential abuses of power in relation to his dealings with Ukraine. The appeals court ruling on Wednesday came the same day that the House began public impeachment hearings.

Trump is also looking to block a similar subpoena for his tax returns from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose office is investigating the Trump Organization’s involvement in buying the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, two women who alleged they had affairs with the president.

Vance began his investigation after federal prosecutors in Manhattan completed their probe into hush-money payments Cohen says he arranged for Daniels and McDougal and that the Trump Organization reimbursed him for so the women would stay quiet during the presidential election. Cohen is now serving three years in prison.

A federal judge, Victor Marrero, rejected Trump’s challenge to that subpoena last month, saying he could not grant such a “categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity.” An appeals court upheld Marrero’s ruling on Nov. 4. Trump’s attorneys are expected to ask the Supreme Court to also look at this case as soon as this week.

The Wednesday ruling comes just days after another federal judge in Washington, D.C., Carl Nichols, dismissed a Trump lawsuit against New York officials over releasing his tax returns to Congress. The president sued New York’s attorney general, tax commissioner and the House Ways and Means Committee in July seeking an injunction to block the implementation of a New York state law that would allow Congress to obtain state tax returns that are relevant to its investigation.

That judge ruled on Nov. 11 that the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., did not have jurisdiction to hear a case about a state law. Sekulow, Trump’s attorney, said at the time that he was reviewing the ruling.