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A federal appellate court judge who is considering whether former President Donald Trump must be forced to hand over his tax returns to Congress hinted on Thursday that he could wind up in the White House again, and that could be a factor in the outcome of the case.
“We have a situation that involves a sitting President and a former President. If this drags out, for all we know he could be a sitting president again,” Judge Karen Henderson, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, noted, according to CNN.
The judge made her remarks during a hearing as part of a three-judge panel examining whether a lower federal court got it right by tossing Trump’s attempt to block the House Ways and Means Committee from getting access to his personal and business tax records from the IRS.
CNN noted further:
At times, the case has appeared to be the clearest route for the House to obtain Trump’s financial documents. But it has moved slowly, and moved forward only after Trump left office. Meanwhile, Trump and the House have faced off in a handful of other cases where Democratic-led legislative committees have subpoenaed his records.
Judges David Sentelle and Robert Wilkins also heard the case Thursday. Henderson and Sentelle are senior judges who initially took the bench during the Reagan administration, while Wilkins is a Barack Obama appointee.
In this case, the House Ways and Means Committee cited a law to obtain financial information from the IRS about Trump as a way to look at auditing presidents.
The lower court judge, Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, ruled the court couldn’t block Congress from getting the tax returns, because of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislative branches and binding Supreme Court rulings that give Congress broad latitude to pursue its inquiries.
However, on Thursday the appellate panel asked additional questions regarding the separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches and whether courts ought to put more consideration into the matter when determining if lawmakers can attain Trump’s records.
Henderson cited another case that is ongoing between Trump and the House where the U.S. Supreme Court put forth a test for Congress to be able to obtain the records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA.
In that case involving a subpoena sent to Mazars, which has yet to be decided, courts have a need to consider Congress’ authority as it pertains to the head of the Executive Branch.
“We’ve got to look at this not as musical chairs, who’s changing, who’s withdrawing, and who’s leaving office and so forth,” Henderson noted further during the hearing.
The appeals court isn’t likely to rule for months, and any outcome could still be appealed to the Supreme Court or head through multiple additional rounds in lower-level courts, CNN added.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Trump in his attempt to shield presidential documents from the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, claiming executive privilege.
“The court’s decision to formally reject Trump’s appeal follows its Jan. 19 order that led to the documents being handed over to the House of Representatives investigative committee by the federal agency that stores government and historical records,” Yahoo News reported at the time.
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Dec. 9 upheld a lower court ruling that Trump had no basis to challenge President Joe Biden’s decision to allow the records to be handed over to the House of Representatives select committee. Trump then appealed to the Supreme Court,” the report continued.
“Trump and his allies have waged an ongoing legal battle with the House select committee seeking to block access to documents and witnesses. Trump has sought to invoke a legal principle known as executive privilege, which protects the confidentially of some internal White House communications, a stance rejected by lower courts,” the report added.