A US judge has dismissed a bid by Donald Trump to keep his tax returns from a House of Representatives committee, ruling Congress’ legislative interest outweighs any deference Trump should receive as a former president.
District Judge Trevor McFadden said in his ruling Mr Trump was “wrong on the law” in seeking to block the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his tax returns.
Mr McFadden, who also said it was within the power of the committee’s chairman to publish the returns if he saw fit, put his ruling on hold for 14 days, allowing time for an appeal.
Mr Trump was the first president in 40 years not to release his tax returns as he aimed to keep secret the details of his wealth and the activities of his family company, the Trump Organisation.
The committee sued in 2019 to force disclosure of the tax returns, and the dispute lingers on nearly 11 months after Mr Trump left office.
Trump lawyer Patrick Strawbridge told Mr McFadden last month the committee had no legitimate reason to see the tax returns and had asked for them in the hope of uncovering information that could hurt Mr Trump politically.
House Democrats have said they need Mr Trump’s tax returns to see if the Internal Revenue Service is properly auditing presidential returns in general and to assess whether new legislation is needed.
Mr McFadden, a Trump appointee, said the committee would be able to accomplish its stated objective without publishing the returns.
He cautioned the panel’s Democratic chairman, Richard Neal, that while he has the right to do so, “Anyone can see that publishing confidential tax information of a political rival is the type of move that will return to plague the inventor”.
Neither the committee nor Strawbridge immediately responded to requests for comments on the ruling.