Supreme Court paves the way for release of Trump's tax returns to a House panel The decision likely means that the returns will be released to the Committee immediately, ending a multi-year legal battle.

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Supreme Court paves the way for release of Trump's tax returns to a House panel

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Trump's tax records are likely to be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee. This is after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a request by that committee for the former president's tax returns. There were no noted dissents. The decision likely ends a multiyear legal battle between House Democrats and the former president. Joining us now to discuss it all is NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Hey, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hey there, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right. So this has been a long time coming. I will venture I'm not the only one who may have lost track of exactly how we got here. Briefly remind us.

TOTENBERG: Even I had to look back. The battle has been going on for over three years. So to put all this in perspective, every modern president since Richard Nixon, who got into real tax trouble, every modern president since then has made his taxes public, except for Trump, who famously - or infamously - has always found a way to avoid doing that. And in 2019, Congressman Richard Neal, who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, made a request to the IRS for then-President Trump's tax returns for the years 2013 to 2018.

KELLY: OK.

TOTENBERG: The Treasury Department, then run by Trump's Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, denied that request on the grounds that it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Two years later, Neal made an updated request with additional details about the justification for his request. The committee, he said, needed the information contained in Trump's tax returns to meaningfully evaluate the IRS' presidential audit program, which requires the taxes of every president to be audited. Of course, we've never had a president like Trump who had such enormous and diverse business interests and so many opportunities for conflicts of interest. So the committee said it was considering implementing greater legislative oversight of a president's financial activities. And on a second try in 2021, with Trump no longer president, the Treasury Department's office of legal counsel determined that the IRS had to comply and turn over the tax returns to the House committee. Trump, of course, challenged the decision in court. He lost and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which today refused to block the House panel's request.

KELLY: OK. So that's a glimpse of the long and winding path to get to today of Supreme Court's decision. Do things move faster now?

TOTENBERG: Well, the decision likely means that the returns will be released to the committee immediately or close to immediately. After all, the IRS, under a specific statute, has to comply with a committee request for a president's or anyone's taxes. We don't know when this is going to happen exactly or whether the panel will make any portion of the taxes public, although there's no indication of that. But once the Republicans take over, Mary Louise, when they take over the House in January, I doubt they're going to have any appetite for tackling Trump's taxes. Anyway, maybe someone else's - I can imagine somebody else's taxes they might want to get. But that still leaves time for the Democrats to examine the Trump tax returns. I'm not sure from the committee's point of view it has - but it - that it will find anything special, and certainly, it won't have legislation.

KELLY: Right.

TOTENBERG: It at least has established a precedent, though, for the future.

KELLY: A key point there, that even the committee will get their hands on these returns, but we may never see them. We don't know if or when we will. Just briefly, you know, he's lost two previous cases at the Supreme Court over his taxes.

TOTENBERG: (Laughter) In one, he had to turn over his tax returns and other materials held by his accounting firm to a criminal grand jury in New York. But in the other case involving a congressional subpoena for his financial records, not just his tax returns, the loss was less clear, and they finally reached a settlement in September of this year.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Nina Totenberg, thank you.

TOTENBERG: You're welcome.

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