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‘The Public Will Be Significantly Harmed’: Trump Asks Chief Justice John Roberts for Emergency Stay of Tax Returns Release Mandated by Lower Courts

A photo shows Donald Trump.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump spoke in Mesa, Arizona on October 9, 2022.

Update, Nov. 1: the chief justice has granted Trump a stay.

Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the U.S. House of Representatives House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his tax returns in perhaps the final stage of a long-and-winding legal battle over the hotly disputed issue.

The emergency request comes on the heels of a recent appellate court ruling that was the latest in a long line of court orders and rulings dismissing Trump’s efforts to have the congressional subpoena for his tax returns and associated financial information quashed.

Addressed to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles such requests out of the D.C. Circuit, the 45th president’s attorneys framed the issue as a classic question about the separation of powers doctrine.

“This case raises important questions about the separation of powers that will affect every future President,” the filing argues. “The only way to preserve these certiorari-worthy questions and to avoid causing [Trump, his eponymous family business, and other associated entities] irreparable harm is for this Court to grant an administrative stay.”

Trump’s attorneys want the stay issued by this coming Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, and for the stay to last as long as it takes for the nation’s high court to decide on a forthcoming petition for writ of certiorari. Alternatively, the request suggests the court could simply construe the document as a petition and expedite the process along.

In August of this year, a panel of judges on the D.C.-based court of appeals agreed with congressional investigators that their interest in studying and funding the IRS audit process for U.S. presidents and vice presidents is a valid investigatory basis for the information request viz. Trump, who was the first American president in several decades not to release his tax returns – justifying his refusal by repeatedly claiming he was amidst an ongoing audit by the agency.

The committee’s request is premised on a law that allows the House Ways and Means Committee chair to request any person’s tax returns from the IRS. Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Richard Neal sued for the information in 2019 after Trump’s own IRS initially refused to provide the information.

Trump, oppositely, has long complained that the investigation – and potential legislation premised on the committee’s would-be findings – are simply an easy to see-through series of pretexts.

“The Committee’s purpose in requesting President Trump’s tax returns has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the President’s tax information to the public,” the emergency request argues. “Business entities aren’t even subject to the program of the Committee’s professed concern, nor were the requested individual returns from years outside President Trump’s tenure in office.”

The ex-president’s filing notes that the district court termed evidence of such pretext “impressive” and “troubling” and argues that the D.C. appeals court erred when they signed off on the House committee’s “bare statement of purpose on the face of the request.”

“This error will hamstring the President in disputes over any future demands for information,” the emergency request goes on. “If allowed to stand, it will undermine the separation of powers and render the office of the Presidency vulnerable to invasive information demands from political opponents in the legislative branch. Review is of the utmost importance, and the Court should preserve its ability to grant it—not just for one ‘particular President,’ but also for ‘the Presidency itself.'”

The mandate for the agency to comply with the congressional subpoena is dated for Nov. 3, 2022 – this coming Thursday. The IRS has said they plan to release the requested information immediately on that date.

“The [Supreme] Court will only have the chance to consider granting review if it stays the mandate of the D.C. Circuit,” the emergency request notes – highlighting the timeliness of the onetime president’s ask. “[A] stay will harm no one, while Applicants and the public will be significantly harmed without one.”

[image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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