Supreme Court Allows House Democrats to Obtain Trump’s Tax Returns
The Supreme Court’s decision in the House of Representatives v. American Oversight on Monday comes at the request of House Democrats. The House Oversight Committee is the same committee that brought the suit. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion allowing House Oversight to obtain the president’s tax returns. In doing so, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution grants Congress the power to request such information from the president.
Though the Supreme Court’s opinion does not deal with the merits of the Democrats’ suit, there are a number of issues that it does address. Chief among them is the question of what the courts are supposed to do when faced with an issue that is outside the purview of the judicial branch. If the issue is so obviously outside the purview of the courts, then that leaves the judicial branch without recourse. If judicial restraint prevents the court from providing an answer to the question, then the Supreme Court must do something. The Supreme Court says that it is not.
The question of whether the House is entitled to the tax returns the committees want to access is an open one. The Supreme Court’s opinion does not provide for a definitive answer. But it does do two things that suggest a definitive answer one way or the other. First, the Supreme Court says that the tax returns are not protected by the deliberative process privilege. Such a privilege exists for most executive branch records, but it is not applicable to the tax returns at issue in this case. The Supreme Court’s opinion says the returns fell outside the scope of the privilege because they were not “deliberative.” “Deliberative” means that the records were gathered by an open discussion, and then debated as a body by the relevant officials. These officials were not gathering information about what the records did or did not contain. To be sure, there would be some records that are deliberative in the sense that they contain the opinions and ideas of the members of the body or group that are creating them. But those instances are not the ones under consideration here. These are records of an open discussion of information that is being gathered, that is being gathered by the government,