Neal: High court 'did America a favor' with Trump tax filing ruling
STOCKBRIDGE — His party didn't get all that it wanted, but U.S. Rep. Richard Neal still applauded the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to give prosecutors access to President Donald Trump's tax filings.
During a Q&A with constituents Friday morning, Neal hailed the justices' 7-2 ruling in the Trump v. Vance case, which allows New York prosecutors to view the same records.
"The Supreme Court did America a favor, and they upheld the principle that nobody is above the law," the Springfield Democrat said.
Neal made the comments at an event celebrating $72,500 in grants to over a dozen cultural organizations in Berkshire County as part of the federal coronavirus relief package. Participants included Barrington Stage Company and the Norman Rockwell Museum, which hosted the event under a tent on its patio.
As a strong breeze tousled his hair, Neal touted the work of his Ways and Means Committee, including a new House-approved $3 trillion relief package, which leaders from both legislative chambers will negotiate in the coming weeks.
Democrats have sought Trump's tax records for more than a year, saying that the move aligns with their role of overseeing the executive branch. The White House contends that the inquiry constitutes harassment of a sitting president.
While pleased with the outcome in the New York case, Neal lamented that, in another case, Trump v. Mazars, the president did not have to comply with Congress' subpoena for his tax documents. House Democrats argued that Congress' power to subpoena someone's financial information — it's enumerated in a section of the tax code — extends to the president.
Republicans have suggested that the effort by Congress to access the president's tax returns is a partisan maneuver, but Neal contested those claims.
"This is about the law," he said. "This is not about the whim of congressional life, this is about the idea that the request was made."
The court's decision, though, called the request a politically motivated act.
"The subpoenas do not represent a run-of-the-mill legislative effort," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, "but rather a clash between rival branches of government over records of intense political interest for all involved."
While the decision affirmed Congress' ability to investigate people, it created a four-part test to secure the president's personal records. It also sent the case back to lower courts, meaning that Democrats could get their way, but probably not before the November election.
That detail was not lost on Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is running a primary campaign to unseat Neal in September. Morse has argued that Neal, as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has the statutory right to see Trump's tax returns, and has not been aggressive enough in the face of opposition from the Trump administration.
He turned to Twitter on Thursday, claiming that quicker action could have hurt Trump's reelection odds.
"What good is @RepRichardNeal's power in Congress if even Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are doing more work to hold Trump accountable than he is?" Morse said, referring to Trump's own Supreme Court nominees. "A real Democrat would have subpoenaed Trump's taxes on Day 1."
The Morse campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
While the tax records likely will be unavailable to Congress until after the election, Neal said he still would pursue congressional action whenever he gets them — even if Trump no longer is president.
"I would continue to pursue it," he said Friday. "That would be my plan."
Jack Lyons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JackLyonsND.
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