A U.S. judge on Tuesday questioned a congressional lawyer on why a House of Representatives panel wants to see former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, noting that Democratic lawmakers have made conflicting statements about their reasons.
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 activities of his family company, the Trump Organization. The dispute lingers nearly 10 months after he left office.
Thecourt hearing presided over by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington was convened to consider Trump’s effort to block the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining the tax returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service. The hearing was ongoing late on Tuesday afternoon.
Trump has argued that the committee has no legitimate reason to see his tax returns, and asked for them in hopes of learning information that will hurt Trump politically.
McFadden said during the hearing that Democratic Representative Richard Neal, the committee’s chairman, and other Democratic lawmakers have made contradictory statements about why they want Trump’s tax returns.
Some of the public statements suggest the committee wants Trump’s tax returns to consider legislation, which is a valid reason, McFadden said. But other public statements “could certainly be taken to suggest there’s something else going on,” the judge said.
Douglas Letter, a House lawyer, said the Ways and Means Committee sought the tax returns so it could consider legislation about how presidential tax returns are audited, and urged the judge not to second-guess that stated purpose.
“That’s a valid purpose,” Letter said.
The case has moved slowly in the courts, partly because the U.S. Justice Department has reversed positions.
In 2019, under Trump, it said the request for his taxes by the committee was based on a “disingenuous” objective aimed at exposing them to the public.
In July, six months after President Joe Biden took office, it released a memo saying the House panel had offered “sufficient reasons” for requesting the material.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled against Trump in an unrelated case about whether a Manhattan prosecutor could see Trump’s tax returns as part of a criminal investigation of his business.