“While it is possible that Congress may attempt to threaten the sitting President with an invasive request after leaving office, every President takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens upon leaving office. This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug,” Judge David Sentelle wrote in the panel’s opinion.
Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee quickly hailed the ruling.
“We expect to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately,” the panel said in a statement after the decision was released.
The court ruling rejected Trump’s claim that the release of his tax returns to the committee would impose “too great a burden” on him because of the possibility his returns would be made public.
“This is certainly inconvenient, but not to the extent that it represents an unconstitutional burden violating the separation of powers,” the panel concluded. “Congressional investigations sometimes expose the private information of the entities, organizations, and individuals that they investigate. This does not make them overly burdensome. It is the nature of the investigative and legislative processes.”
In a concurring opinion, however, one of the three judges — Karen Henderson — said the ruling gave short-shrift to an analysis of how even investigating a former president could cause separation of powers issues.
“Although we cannot know the extent to which the requests and investigations influenced — or were intended to influence — President Trump’s conduct while in office, it is not far-fetched to believe that such intrusive inquiries could have a chilling effect on a President’s ability to fulfill his obligations under the Constitution and effectively manage the Executive Branch,” she wrote, though she said she nevertheless agreed with the panel’s conclusions.