A powerful Democrat-led House committee is pushing a federal judge to order Donald Trump to comply with a subpoena for his financial records, arguing he no longer has a viable claim to withhold materials now that he is out of office, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The move from the House oversight committee, led by the chair Carolyn Maloney, marks the latest salvo from Democrats in their years-long pursuit to secure Trump’s tax records and related documents, in a case testing the scope and limits of Congress’s oversight authority.
If successful, the committee would be a step closer to obtaining Trump’s tax records and potentially making them public, the source said.
“While the committee’s need for the subpoenaed information has not changed, one key fact has: plaintiff Donald J Trump is no longer the president,” Douglas Letter, the general counsel for congressional Democrats, wrote in a motion filed last week in the US district court for the District of Columbia.
“Because he is no longer the incumbent, the constitutional separation-of-powers principles that were the foundation of the supreme court’s recent decision are significantly diminished,” Letter wrote.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office in New York obtained the former president’s tax records in March, just hours after the supreme court denied his last-ditch attempt to keep them concealed. But, as they are part of a law enforcement investigation, they have not so far been released.
The thousands of documents turned over by Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA include tax returns from January 2011 to August 2019, as well as financial statements, engagement letters and communications related to financial disclosures, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said.
But in a separate decision, the supreme court ruled last summer that Congress could not see many of the same records, saying instead the case should be returned to lower courts on account of “significant separation of powers concerns” surrounding the issue.
The committee, though, now believes that with Trump out of office, the separation of powers concerns that arose when he was subpoenaed by Congress as a sitting president no longer apply, the source said.
If the committee is ultimately successful, it could pave the way for Trump’s tax returns to one day become public, since Congress is not restricted by grand jury secrecy rules that bar the Manhattan district attorney’s office from releasing the documents except as evidence at a trial.
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
House Democrats and Trump have been locked in a bitterly contested dispute since April 2019, when the committee first issued a subpoena to Mazars USA demanding 10 years’ worth of Trump’s financial records under the leadership of the late Representative Elijah Cummings.
Maloney reissued the subpoena to Mazars USA earlier this year, after the initial subpoena expired with the new Congress.
“For more than 22 months, the committee has been denied key information needed to inform legislative action to address the once-in-a-generation ethics crisis created by former President Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interests,” Maloney said at the time, in a memo obtained by the Guardian.
“The committee’s need for this information – in order to verify key facts and tailor legislative reforms to be as effective as possible – remains just as compelling now as it was when the committee first issued its subpoena.”