Judge Trevor McFadden of United States District Court for the District of Columbia, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2017, ruled that even if Congress’s aim is to embarrass Trump by obtaining and potentially publishing his financial statements, which is what Trump and his team of attorney have claimed, that lawmakers have the right to access them.
“Even if the former President is right on the facts, he is wrong on the law,” McFadden said in a 45-page decision. “A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries. Even the special solicitude accorded former Presidents does not alter the outcome. The Court will therefore dismiss this case.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill maintain that they have sought Trump’s tax documents as part of a review of the Internal Revenue Service’s mandatory Presidential Audit Program, which is not subject to executive privilege.
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“We’re now one step closer to being able to conduct more thorough oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program,” Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) said in a statement.
Trump, meanwhile, has accused Democrats of conducting a fishing expedition with no legislative purpose.
But because Trump’s tax records are “inordinately large and complex,” as the Committee has stated, McFadden said that the Committee only had to give “a valid legislative purpose [and] it had done so,” referring to the IRS audit.
McFadden also explained that because Trump is no longer the president, and has therefore sued as a private citizen, that his standing holds much less clout. He noted that the Legislative and Executive Branches were in agreement about Trump having to hand over his returns, and although he warned against the potential fallout of publicly disclosing Trump’s financial records purely out of spite, McFadden nevertheless conceded that the Committee has that right.
“If Chairman Neal’s true interest in the former President’s tax returns is indeed to better understand the Presidential Audit Program, he will doubtless be able to accomplish this objective without publishing the returns,” McFadden said. “It might not be right or wise to publish the returns, but it is the Chairman’s right to do so. Congress has granted him this extraordinary power, and courts are loath to second guess congressional motives or duly enacted statutes.”
McFadden added that “anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of move that will return to plague the inventor.”
Trump’s counselors filed an appeal late Tuesday night.
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