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US appeals court grills Trump lawyer in seized documents dispute

US appeals court grills Trump lawyer in seized documents dispute

Former US President Donald Trump makes an announcement of his plans to run for president in the 2024 US presidential election at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Nov 15, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Octavio Jones)

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday (Nov 22) cleared the release of Donald Trump's tax returns to a congressional committee, handing a defeat to the Republican former president who had called the Democratic-led panel's request politically motivated.

The justices denied Trump's Oct 31 emergency application to block a lower court's ruling that upheld a request by the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee for the tax records as a justified part of the panel's legislative work while his lawyers prepared an appeal. No justice publicly dissented from the decision.

The fight over the committee's request is one of many legal woes for Trump as he moves forward with another run for the presidency in 2024. Trump last week announced the launch of his candidacy.

Tuesday's order superseded one issued by Chief Justice John Roberts on Nov 1 that had effectively paused the dispute and prevented the panel from obtaining the Trump returns while the court considered how to proceed.

Republicans, who secured a narrow House majority following the Nov 8 midterm elections, are poised to take over control of the committee in January.

Trump was the first president in four decades years not to release his tax returns as he sought to keep secret the details of his wealth and the activities of his real estate company, the Trump Organization.

The Ways and Means panel told the Supreme Court in a legal filing that siding with Trump would harm the constitutional authority of a co-equal branch of government "by in effect preventing Congress from completing any investigation involving a former president whenever there are allegations that the investigation was politically motivated.

The panel in its request invoked a federal law that empowers its chairman to request any person's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). House Democrats have said they need to see Trump's tax returns to assess whether the IRS is properly auditing presidential returns and to gauge whether new legislation is needed.

In its filing, the committee told the justices that IRS policy "does not address what to do regarding a president who, like former President Trump, owned hundreds of business entities, had inordinately complex returns, used aggressive tax avoidance strategies and allegedly had ongoing audits".

Trump's lawyers have said the committee's real aim is to publicly expose his tax returns and unearth politically damaging information about Trump.

US District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, sided with Congress in December 2021 and threw out the challenge to the committee's request, finding that the committee holds broad authority over a former president's tax returns.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August also ruled against Trump and in October refused a rehearing.

Source: Reuters/ec
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