Escalating the messy and protracted battle over his tax returns, President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the House Ways and Means Committee and New York state officials in an attempt to keep his state tax returns from becoming public.
The lawsuit, filed by Trump’s personal lawyers in federal court in Washington, seeks to block a freshly enacted New York law that allows three congressional committees, including Ways and Means, to procure his state tax returns. The suit claims New York’s TRUST Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) earlier this month, is unconstitutional and was passed with the express purpose of causing political damage to Trump.
The Ways and Means Committee, the lawsuit contends, lacks a “legitimate legislative purpose” to request Trump’s tax information.
“We have filed a lawsuit today in our ongoing efforts to end presidential harassment,” Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s attorneys, told The Associated Press in a statement. “The targeting of the president by the House Ways and Means Committee, the New York Attorney General, and a New York tax official violates article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The harassment tactics lack a legitimate legislative purpose. The actions taken by the House and New York officials are nothing more than political retribution.”
Trump’s lawsuit comes three weeks after the Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department and officials at the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to force them to release six years of the president’s personal and business returns.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has said he has the authority, based on the tax code, to obtain any taxpayer’s returns. Neal has said his committee needs the information so it can properly oversee the IRS’ annual audits of the president ― but the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to hand over the records, even snubbing a subpoena.
Neal has not said whether he intends to use the New York law to obtain Trump’s state tax returns, which are likely to contain information similar to his federal filings. Neal’s office did not respond to an after-hours request for comment.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a defendant in Trump’s lawsuit, said her office had “all the confidence” that the state’s new law is legal and “will vigorously defend” it in court.
“President Trump has spent his career hiding behind lawsuits but, as New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I can assure him that no one is above the law — not even the president of the United States,” James said.