Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday challenged in court last week's U.S. Justice Department order that his tax returns should be turned over to a House of Representatives committee.
In a filing in federal court in the District of Columbia, Trump's lawyers said the House Ways and Means Committee lacks a legitimate basis for seeking his federal tax returns, and that the Justice Department erred when it backed the committee's request.
Trump’s lawyers reiterated their longstanding opposition to the handover, arguing that Democrats demanded the tax returns “to retaliate against President Trump because of his policy positions, his political beliefs, and his protected speech, including the positions he took during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns.”
Trump’s lawyers said the committee had no valid legislative reason for requesting the documents from Congress.
“The new OLC (the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) opinion does not deny the record of impermissible intent, but instead gives wobbly justifications and shallow reasoning for why the executive branch should ignore that evidence,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the filing on Wednesday.
The department, reversing course from the stance it took when Trump was in office, on Friday told the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide the Republican businessman-turned-politician's tax records to congressional investigators - a move he has long fought.
Trump was the first president in 40 years to not release his tax returns, as well as other documents, as he aimed to keep secret the details of his wealth and activities of his family company, the Trump Organization.
The Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee has said it wants the tax data to determine whether the IRS is properly auditing presidential tax returns in general and to assess whether new legislation is needed.
Trump's lawyers called that a "pretextual" rationalization.
"The requests are tailored to, and in practical operation will affect, only President Trump," they said in Wednesday's court filing. "The requests single out President Trump because he is a Republican and a political opponent."
Critics accused Trump of using the Justice Department to advance his personal and political interests during his four years in office, and the department has moved to reassert its independence since Democratic President Joe Biden took office.
After another legal fight, the Manhattan district attorney's office in February separately obtained Trump tax and financial records in a criminal investigation centering on his company, though the material was not publicly disclosed.
(Material from the Bloomberg news service was also used in this story.)
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.