The Supreme Court entered an order on Tuesday morning signed by Chief Justice John Roberts that temporarily blocks the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Without the stay issued Tuesday morning, the Treasury Department could have handed over six years of Trump’s confidential tax records under a lower court’s order as early as Thursday.
The order entered by Roberts will preserve the status quo until the high court has an opportunity to hear from both sides and weigh the legal issues. The House committee was given until November 10 to file a formal response to the papers filed by Trump’s legal team on Monday.
Roberts handled the emergency motion filed by President Trump alone because the chief justice is normally assigned such matters that come out of appeals from lower federal courts in the District of Columbia.
In the application for an emergency appeal, Trump’s legal team told the justices that allowing the House Democrats to obtain the tax documents would violate a prior Supreme Court ruling in a previous case about Trump’s tax returns. They also argued that allowing Congress to obtain the records would damage the separation of powers established by the Constitution.
The underlying lawsuit was originally filed in 2019 when the committee requested the IRS provide Trump’s personal and business returns. The committee relied on a federal law that provides that the committee may obtain “any return or return information” from the IRS.
That request initially came during the Trump administration, and the Treasury Department rejected the demand. That led to the lawsuit, but before the federal district court could rule, Joe Biden assumed office. The House committee renewed its request at that time, refining the legal basis and scope of the demand for records.
The Treasury then agreed to provide the records, leading Trump to bring new claims in the lawsuit to block the disclosure. The district judge ruled against Trump and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia eventually upheld that ruling.
The appeals court wrote in its ruling that “the mere fact that individual members of Congress may have political motives as well as legislative ones is of no moment.”
If Trump’s attorneys are able to persuade the Supreme Court to delay the implementation of the lower court’s order until January, a potential new Republican House majority could bring an end to the demand for the tax documents.