The US Supreme Court has ordered former President Donald Trump’s tax forms to be released to a Democratic-controlled congressional committee.
The move is a major blow to Mr Trump, who has tried for years to shield his tax returns from becoming public.
Mr Trump became the first president in 40 years not to release his taxes after announcing his first presidential run.
The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee has been seeking access to Mr Trump’s taxes since 2019.
Mr Trump, who launched his third campaign for the White House last week, is facing multiple investigations related to his business practices. He denies any wrongdoing.
Tuesday’s ruling allows a lower court’s order to stand, authorising the documents to be handed over to the committee.
It supersedes an order issued by Chief Justice John Roberts on 1 November that put the request on hold as the panel’s nine judges deliberated.
The Supreme Court’s brief response did not note dissent from any of the judges.
The decision clears the US treasury department to deliver Mr Trump’s returns from 2013-18 for him and some of his businesses to the Democratic-controlled committee.
It comes just before the Republicans take control of the House, after Democrats failed to hold their majority in this month’s midterm elections.
Mr Trump has suffered two other defeats this year from the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, three of whose justices he appointed.
In October, the court refused to weigh in on the legal fight over the FBI search of Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Agents served a warrant at the estate on suspicion that the former president may have improperly handled classified documents.
In January, the court refused to act to stop the National Archives from handing over documents to the 6 January committee investigating the riot on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters.
Mr Trump has rejected the Ways and Means Committee’s probe as politically motivated.
Last year, a Trump-appointed judge on the court of appeals in Washington DC ruled that the House did have a legitimate need to review the forms.
The committee has argued that it needs to see Mr Trump’s forms to determine whether tax officials are properly auditing presidential candidates, and whether any new legislation is necessary.
They had told the lower court that Mr Trump’s refusal blocks Congress from conducting oversight of the executive and judicial branches “by in effect preventing Congress from completing any investigation involving a former president whenever there are allegations that the investigation was politically motivated”.
In its filing to the Supreme Court, the committee told the justices that current tax policy “does not address what to do regarding a president who, like former President Trump, owned hundreds of business entities, had inordinately complex returns, used aggressive tax avoidance strategies and allegedly had ongoing audits”.
Democrats beat the buzzer – barely
Donald Trump was almost able to run out the clock on the congressional request to view his tax returns.
With just over a month left of Democratic control of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court has given the green light for the treasury department to provide the documents to the Ways and Means Committee.
Given that the treasury department is run by the Biden administration, the process of handing over the documents should proceed expeditiously. Democrats won’t have long to review them before Republicans take over on 3 January, however. And coming up with any proposed changes to federal law regarding presidential tax returns – the stated purpose of the congressional request – seems a pointless effort with the little time remaining before congressional adjournment.
But a few weeks may be long enough to unearth evidence of any unusual or potentially improper accounting by Mr Trump – and for those details to leak to the public. And that, many assume, was the real motive behind the request.