President Joe Biden’s administration is urging the Supreme Court to let House Democrats get access to former President Donald Trump’s tax documents.
In a 30-page brief filed Nov. 10, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said that earlier rulings finding House Democrats’ request had legitimate legislative intent were correct, and that the nation’s top court should not diverge from them.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, said the request from House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) served a valid legislative purpose because Neal says he will use the returns to examine whether new or adjusted legislation is needed for the IRS program that audits presidents.
An appeals court later upheld the ruling.
Trump then lodged an emergency application for a stay to the Supreme Court, which triggered a temporary block on Neal’s panel obtaining the documents.
Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, entered the stay and asked the government to respond to Trump by Nov. 10 at noon.
Trump’s lawyers said there is “a fair prospect” that the Supreme Court will stay the lower court rulings and deny the Democrat request, and that without a stay Trump will suffer issues such as a loss of confidentiality.
Prelogar, a Biden appointee, argued Trump had not met the bar for a stay, which includes an applicant showing a reasonable probability that four justices will agree to review the appeals court ruling and showing there is a fair prospect that a majority of the court would reverse the ruling.
Because the appeals court relied on Supreme Court precedent, including Trump v. Mazars, there’s no need for the Supreme Court to review the ruling, Prelogar asserted.
“The court of appeals’ factbound application of the Mazars factors does not warrant further review. And this case would be a particularly poor vehicle for elaborating on the Mazars analysis,” she said, noting that the two lower courts “each took somewhat different approaches to the separation-of-powers questions presented here, but all of them reached the same conclusion—and none of them regarded the case as particularly close.”
“The application should be denied,” she added.
Roberts has not yet indicated whether he will solicit a reply to the brief from Trump’s lawyers.
Roberts is handling the application because he oversees the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
He can keep the stay in place or lift it on his own, or choose to refer the matter to the full court for consideration.
If the stay had not been imposed, the IRS was under orders to transmit Trump documents from tax years 2015 to 2020 to Neal.