The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee permission to obtain former president Donald Trump’s tax returns and other, related financial information, as the lame duck session continues.
In a terse, two-sentence order, the nation’s high court put their own seal of finality on a years-long effort by congressional Democrats to secure the 45th president’s 1040s and associated tax filings for the years since he served as the nation’s leader.
“The application for stay of the mandate presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is denied,” the order says. “The order heretofore entered by The Chief Justice is vacated.”
In August of this year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a mandate that directed the U.S. Department of the Treasury to supply the requested documents to congressional investigators by Nov. 3, 2022. The IRS had indicated its willingness to comply with the court’s order.
On Oct. 31, 2022, Trump sought emergency relief from Chief Justice John Roberts, asking for the issuance of an administrative, or emergency, stay that would pause the appellate court’s mandate until the full Supreme Court considered a forthcoming petition for writ of certiorari on the merits. Trump’s attorneys also said the arguments made in the emergency request could be construed as a petition themselves – essentially an effort to move things along faster.
The next morning, on Nov. 1, 2022, Roberts granted the pause.
The stay, as the ex-president’s emergency request itself noted, gave the nine justices the opportunity “to consider granting review” of the case on the merits. Trump argued that the lower courts had erred when they accepted the rationale advanced by congressional investigators. Further, they argued, this alleged error touched upon fundamental separation of powers issues and “the Presidency itself.”
“Upon consideration of the application of counsel for the applicants, it is ordered that the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, case No. 21-5289, is hereby stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court,” the chief justice wrote when granting the stay.
Roberts advised interested parties to respond with haste in the matter stylized as Trump v. Committee on Ways and Means.
In turn, the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, the committee itself, and Trump’s attorneys filed reply briefs and responses.
Upon consideration of those various arguments, it appears that at least five justices were not interested in hearing any more about the tax returns dispute. It takes at least four justices to grant certiorari on a case and hear oral arguments in full from opposing sides.
No dissents were recorded from the Tuesday order denying and vacating the stay. Theoretically, there could have been three votes to maintain the stay and to consider the case on the merits.
Had the Supreme Court taken up the case, Democrats likely would have never been granted access to the documents they fought years – through various favorable court rulings – to get their hands on. The incoming GOP House majority is likely not to follow up on the probe into Trump’s finances.
Democrats previously said, and convinced the court system, that they intended to use Trump’s tax returns to study the mechanics and funding of the IRS audit process for U.S. presidents and vice presidents.
The incoming 118th Congress is scheduled to convene in early January 2023.
[Image via Emily Elconin/Getty Images]
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