History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Trying to hide his tax returns, Trump loses yet again in court

Updated

Donald Trump and his lawyers keep asking courts to help keep the president’s tax returns hidden. The courts keep saying no.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump’s accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court.

On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena.

Because there are multiple ongoing fights over Trump’s hidden tax materials, it can get a little confusing to keep track of the cases. Last week, for example, a different appeals court ruled against the president’s lawyers, who tried to block a subpoena from New York prosecutors who are seeking Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into the Republican’s hush-money scandal.

Yesterday’s ruling, meanwhile, relates to the U.S. House subpoena of Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for the same documents. The president’s lawyers already lost this case at both the district and appellate court levels, but Team Trump asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to scrap that decision and rehear the case. In an 8-3 ruling, the appellate bench rejected the request.

To date, Trump’s lawyers have lost every case related to keeping the president’s returns hidden from scrutiny.

Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s private attorneys, said in a statement yesterday that Trump’s team will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court – which, naturally, is where things will get even more interesting.

It’s worth emphasizing that it’s not at all clear whether four or more justices will agree to hear the case. If not, Team Trump will have exhausted its options.

That said, if the Supreme Court takes up the case, the stage will be set for a historic fight over separation of powers.

About a year ago, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a close Trump ally, reflected on what might happen if Democrats earned a House majority in the 2018 midterms and used its power to pursue the president’s tax returns in earnest.

“Then [Democrats will] be trapped into appealing to the Supreme Court,” Gingrich said, “and we’ll see whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it.”

As regular readers may recall, the implication wasn’t subtle: Gingrich was making the case that Team Trump expected the Republican’s judges to shield the president from accountability. We’ll likely soon find out whether that assumption was correct.