A federal judge has ordered the Treasury Department to give former President Donald Trump at least 72 hours' notice before releasing his tax returns. According to a report by Politico, District Court Judge Trevor McFadden handed down the order and said that it would last for two weeks. He also ordered attorneys for both Trump and the House of Representatives to file a joint status report by Feb. 3.
Democrats may soon get copies of Trump's long-elusive tax returns for the House Ways and Means Committee, but McFadden wants Trump's lawyers to have plenty of warning. Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal has been trying to get the documents for years, but Trump's appointed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to surrender them in 2019. With a new administration in place, the Treasury could release those documents, and Democrats say they still want them.
McFadden presided over a hearing between Trump's lawyers and House Counsel Douglas Letter, who said he hopes the Treasury "will follow what we believe is a clear legal obligation." Neal has shared the same view, saying citing a law which says that the Treasury secretary must turn over any tax returns requested by the chairs of the three tax committees in the U.S. Congress.
On the other hand, the Department of Justice under Trump backed Mnuchin's decision to withhold the tax returns in spite of Neal's laws. While Biden's appointees are now taking office, the new Justice Department is not necessarily more amenable. The DOJ's attorney James Gilligan told McFadden he had no idea whether the Treasury of the new DOJ would change its position, adding that "they have a lot on their plate" right now.
Neal is specifically seeking six years' worth of Trump's personal tax returns and some business-related returns, which he says will be used to examine the integrity of the IRS' audits of presidents. Back in 2019, Mnuchin argued that this wasn't a "legitimate legislative purpose." Democrats sued the Treasury over this issue in July of 2019, and the case continues to crawl along at a slow pace.
This latest delay frustrated Letter, who said during Friday's hearing: "Our feeling is enough is enough. The statute is clear," and called for Trump's filings to be handed over at once. Trump, now a private citizen, is living in his Florida residence near Mar-a-Lago and making few public appearances or comments to the press. His social media platforms remain suspended. He has not remarked on this new development in his tax case.