Donald and Melania Trump board Air Force One during a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on Jan. 20. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
A lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives signaled that congressional Democrats will move aggressively during the Biden admnistration to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, telling a judge “enough is enough.”
“The House has been stymied for a long time,” the lawyer, Douglas Letter, said Friday at a court hearing in Washington. “We just can’t have these kinds of delays that drag on for month after month after month.”
It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will comply with Congress’s request for Trump’s taxes. The judge overseeing a legal fight over his returns said the ex-president must receive 72 hours’ notice before the administration surrenders the returns over to Congress.
The battle dates to 2019, when the House Ways and Means Committee sued to compel then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to hand over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Under Trump, the Justice Department fought House subpoenas for the documents.
A Justice Department lawyer said Friday he was unsure whether the Biden administration would continue to fight the records request.
“We still have no idea whether any conclusion has been reached by the new administration on that issue,” Justice Department attorney James Gilligan said at the hearing. “We don’t know whether any decision is imminent.”
Trump’s lawyers will almost certainly move to block the handover of returns if the administration decides to provide them to Congress.
“We won’t need a lot of time once we know what DOJ’s position is,” Patrick Strawbridge, a lawyer for Trump, told U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden.
Gilligan said he had discussed the case briefly with the Justice Department’s new leadership, but that a decision on how to proceed could be weeks away. “This is only their second full day in office,” he said. “They have a lot on their plate.”
Trump was the only recent president not to disclose his taxes to the public. Democrats sought his returns under a federal law permitting congressional tax committees to examine any taxpayer’s filings.
At the hearing, the lawyers debated whether the House would have to formally re-issue its subpoenas, or if the original request can carry over to the new administration. Letter said U.S. Representative Richard Neal, the committee chair, “has been authorized to reissue these subpoenas if that is necessary.”
Many details about Trump’s taxes were revealed in a September 2020 New York Times investigative report, including that he paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016.(Updates with detail from hearing).