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Trump's Fight to Keep His Tax Returns Secret Has Nowhere Left to Go But the US Supreme Court

"We are so close," said Trump critics after an appeals court decision.

Protesters take part in the 'Tax March' calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax records in 2017 in New York. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

Critics of President Donald Trump welcomed a federal appeals court's decision Wednesday to let stand an earlier ruling affirming the authority of Congress to seek Trump's tax records, which sets up a potential review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an 8-3 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to review an October ruling by a three-judge appeals court panel that rejected Trump's effort to block a subpoena that the Democrat-controlled U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee sent to his accounting firm, Mazars USA, earlier this year.

Judge David Tatel, joined by Judge Patricia Millett, wrote in October that "contrary to the president's arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply." Tatel and Millett were appointed by Democratic presidents; dissenting Judge Neomi Rao was appointed by Trump.

Judges Rao, Gregory Katsas, and Karen LeCraft Henderson all published dissenting statements for Wednesday's ruling. Katsas was also nominated by Trump and LeCraft Henderson was appointed by George H.W. Bush.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow confirmed the president's legal team "will be seeking review at the Supreme Court," to which Trump has appointed two right-wing justices—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—during his first term.

The national movement Tax March declared in response to the appeals court decision, "we are so close!"

Tax March executive director Maura Quint said in a statement Thursday that "we are heartened to see the decision" from the appeals court.

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"Congress has the constitutionally designated role of presidential oversight, and this president most certainly needs it," Quint added. "It is vital for the preservation of our democracy that no president be allowed to consider themselves above the law. Without reviewing his tax returns, we continue to be uncertain in whose interests President Trump is working."

Tax March was founded in 2017 as a grassroots nonpartisan effort to pressure Trump to release his tax returns. So far, the president has resisted that pressure.

"His intense efforts to hide these returns from Congress and from the public give us tremendous pause and reason to believe that the president may not be working in the interests of Americans," said Quint. "Instead, his continued efforts to avoid transparency and obscure his motivations and influences compel us to wonder who is benefiting from his leadership? At this juncture, we have no reason to believe it is the American public."

Wednesday's decision came as the House Democrats held the first public hearing for the impeachment inquiry into the president. Progressive advocacy group Stand Up America tweeted after the appeals court decision, "Safe to say that today was a bad day for Donald Trump."

"Trump was the first major party presidential nominee not to release any tax returns, dating back to 1976, when President Gerald Ford released a summary of his tax returns, rather than the complete returns," according to FactCheck.org.

The fight over the House committee's subpoena is not the only ongoing legal battle involving Trump's tax returns. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a district judge's ruling that the president's accounting firm must turn over eight years of personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Just days before that appeal panel ruling, Trump announced he was changing his permanent residence to Palm Beach, Florida because "I cherish New York, and the people of New York, and always will, but unfortunately, despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state, and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state."

This post has been updated with additional comment from Tax March.

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