US top judge temporarily halts push to obtain Trump’s tax records

Chief Justice John Roberts effectively pauses effort by congressional panel to get former US president’s tax returns.

US Supreme Court
Trump says the push to obtain his tax records is politically motivated [File: Will Dunham/Reuters]

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has temporarily blocked a congressional panel’s effort to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns, effectively pausing the legal fight over the former president’s records as the top court considers the issue.

Roberts’ order on Tuesday came in response to an emergency motion by Trump’s lawyer to prevent the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee from getting the tax returns.

The chief justice set a November 10 deadline for the committee’s lawyers to respond.

Trump broke with a decades-long tradition and refused to voluntarily release his tax returns as a presidential candidate and subsequently as a president, arguing that he is under an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US tax agency.

An appeals court ruled in August that the congressional panel has a right to see the records. The committee has been trying to force Trump to disclose his tax returns since Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in 2019.

Trump has said the push is politically motivated. “No Congress has ever wielded its legislative powers to demand a President’s tax returns,” his lawyers wrote to the Supreme Court on Monday.

But the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this year that the former president is a legitimate subject of congressional scrutiny.

“While it is possible that Congress may attempt to threaten the sitting president with an invasive request after leaving office, every president takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office,” the court said. “This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug.”

The New York Times obtained some of Trump’s tax information in 2020 and reported that paid little to no federal tax in the years prior to taking office.

The former president, a real estate mogul who has suggested he will run for the White House again in 2024, is facing a host of investigations.

New York State filed a civil lawsuit against Trump in September alleging “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” in his company – the Trump Organization.

Separately, the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal probe into the ex-president’s possible mishandling of secret government documents.

A congressional panel investigating the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters also recently issued a subpoena for the former president to testify under oath before the committee.

Trump, who was impeached twice as president, has denied wrongdoing in all the cases, alleging that they are political attacks led by his Democratic rivals.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies