WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a House committee to receive former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, refusing his request to block their release in the waning weeks of Democratic control of the chamber.
The court’s order, which was unsigned and did not note any dissents, is the most recent instance in which it has sided against Mr. Trump, who appointed three justices to the bench. The decision means that the Treasury Department is likely to soon turn over Mr. Trump’s financial documents to the House, which has been seeking them since 2019.
Mr. Trump’s legal team had urged the justices to extend a lower court’s stay as it pursued an appeal before the Supreme Court, saying the House’s request raised issues that were too important to let the Treasury Department turn over his files before they were resolved.
But Douglas N. Letter, the chief lawyer for the House, urged the Supreme Court not to intervene, pointing to a new Congress in January. Any further delay “would leave the committee and Congress as a whole little or no time to complete their legislative work,” he wrote in a brief earlier this month.
In a terse order, the Supreme Court said it was denying Mr. Trump’s application for a stay. It did not include any legal reasoning for the decision.
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Lawyers for Mr. Trump and a representative for Richard E. Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case traces back to Mr. Trump’s refusal in 2016 to make public his tax returns, breaking with modern precedent set by presidential candidates and presidents.
In 2019, after Democrats took over the House, Mr. Neal asked the Treasury Department to provide them.
Despite a law that gives the Ways and Means Committee the authority to see any taxpayer’s documents, the Trump administration refused to let the department turn over the records. In July 2019, the House filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce its request.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have argued that Mr. Neal’s request lacks a valid legislative purpose. His claim that Congress needs the materials to study a program that audits presidents is a pretext for a politically motivated abuse of power, they have said.
The case was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge, Trevor N. McFadden, who took his time in making a ruling.
The case was still pending in 2021, when the Biden administration entered office and the current Congress was seated. Mr. Neal renewed his request and the Justice Department issued a memorandum saying the committee had a legal right to the returns.
In December last year, Judge McFadden moved on the case, ruling that the committee had a legal right to the records. But he blocked the Treasury Department from turning them over until the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviewed his decision.
In August, a panel on the Court of Appeals upheld Judge McFadden’s decision, but Mr. Trump asked the full appeals court to reconsider the matter. It rejected that request last month.
Mr. Trump then asked the Supreme Court to intervene, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. temporarily extended the block.
Even though he ensured a conservative supermajority on the court for years to come, Mr. Trump has had a mixed record with the justices. In recent years, the court has rejected his efforts to challenge aspects of the 2020 election, to prevent prosecutors from obtaining his financial records, and to have an outside arbiter review sensitive documents seized from his residence.