“While Congress may attempt to threaten the incumbent president with an invasive demand after he leaves office, every president takes office knowing that he will be subject to the same laws as all other citizens when he will leave office. This is a feature of our democratic republic, not a bug,” Judge David Sentelle wrote in the panel opinion.
Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee quickly hailed the decision.
“We expect to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately,” the panel said in a statement after the ruling was released.
The court ruling rejected Trump’s claim that disclosing his tax returns to the committee would place “too heavy a burden” on him because of the possibility that his returns would be made public.
“It 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 they investigate. That doesn’t make them too restrictive. This is the nature of investigative and legislative processes.
In a concurring opinion, however, one of the three justices – Karen Henderson – said the ruling had given little thought to an analysis of how even investigating a former president could cause separation of powers issues.
“While 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 a stretch to believe that such intrusive investigations 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, although she said she nevertheless agreed with the findings of the panel.