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With the recent ruling by the Supreme Court letting Manhattan prosecutor pursue Donald Trump's financial records, it rejected President Trump’s bold claims of immunity from local law enforcement and congressional investigators, delivering a nuanced and likely landmark lesson on the separation of powers and limits of presidential authority.

In one of two lopsided 7-to-2 rulings, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rejected Trump’s argument that he did not have to comply with a subpoena from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and said Vance had authority to pursue the president’s personal and business financial records.

The court put a hold on the congressional subpoenas, suggesting overreach on the part of the lawmakers. The court sent the cases back to lower courts, where, the justices said, Trump also could challenge the specifics of Vance’s inquiry.

Under a 1924 federal tax law, § 6103 of title 26 of the United States Code, Congress may request copies of anyone's tax returns. The treasury secretary is legally obliged to provide the tax returns, and there is no apparent legal mechanism to deny Congress's request.

If a subpoena was issued by Congress for financial records, under what authority does the Executive Branch and treasury have to defy these requests? What are ramifications for defying congressional requests as the law is very clear yet what can be done? Normal citizens would be arrested for defying a subpoena. A law is meaningless if it has no teeth.

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  • As far as I can tell, none of the subpoenas came from the committees in 6103(f)(1) or (2), which just have blanket access. Under (3), which is "all other committees", a specific purpose is required, and my understanding of Trump's argument is (paraphrased) that "the purpose specified was illegitimate, so the subpoena isn't valid". – Bobson Jul 19 '20 at 23:20
  • The 1924 Federal Law is almost absolute and doesn't really say Congress's is required to give a reason. I guess that's my confusion and why the Supreme Court didn't rule with the already written law and decided to punt it back to lower courts. – Noah Jul 19 '20 at 23:29
  • Which of the questions do you want answered: the one about the IRS or about the limits of congressional subpoena authority? – ThisIsNoZaku Jul 19 '20 at 23:32
  • Look at the end of (3): Any resolution described in this paragraph shall specify the purpose for which the return or return information is to be furnished and that such information cannot reasonably be obtained from any other source. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to even try to speculate on why "because we want it" isn't a valid reason, but it's only absolute for the committees listed in (1). – Bobson Jul 19 '20 at 23:33
  • @ThisisNoZaku I guess both? IRS defying Congressional subpoena. – Noah Jul 19 '20 at 23:37

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