President Trump on Tuesday sued the House Ways and Means Committee and New York state officials for employing an "unconstitutional" law to obtain his state tax returns, after the Treasury Department's move to block his federal records from release.
The president, “in his capacity as a private citizen,” filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Committee on Ways and Means, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt, for “declaratory and injunctive relief.”
The president’s suit comes after the committee chairman, Richard Neal, D-Mass., earlier this month sued the Trump administration, accusing officials of violating federal law by refusing to comply with the panel's requests and subpoenas for the documents.
Days later, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law, titled the TRUST Act, which would allow lawmakers on Capitol Hill to obtain Trump’s state tax returns. Under previous law, though, state tax returns were required to remain private with an exception for law enforcement.
“Once it became clear that Treasury would not divulge the President’s federal tax returns, New York passed a law allowing the Committee to get his state returns,” the court filing read, describing the new law that directs the commissioner to grant the committee’s request for Trump’s state tax returns. “That hyper-specific condition was, not coincidentally, already satisfied for the intended target of the Act: President Trump.”
“New York legislators admitted that the TRUST Act’s purpose was to help the Committee expose the President’s private tax information for political gain; its purpose was their purpose,” the filing read, calling it a “workaround.”
“The President is entitled to relief. Because the Committee’s jurisdiction is limited to federal taxes, no legislation could possibly result from a request for the President’s state tax returns,” the filing read. “The Committee thus lacks legitimate legislative purpose for using the TRUST Act.”
The president’s lawsuit also claimed that the new law was "unconstitutional" and “violates the First Amendment,” saying it was enacted “to discriminate and retaliate against President Trump for his speech and politics.”
The filing also claimed that the new law was part of “a larger campaign in New York to uncover and expose the President’s private financial information in the hopes of damaging him politically.”
“We have filed a lawsuit today in our ongoing efforts to end Presidential harassment," Trump counsel Jay Sekulow, said in a statement to Fox News Tuesday. "The harassment tactics lack a legitimate legislative purpose. The actions taken by the House and New York officials are nothing more than political retribution.“
The president has battled with the state of New York for months—James, prior to taking her post as state attorney general, warned that she would “use every area of the law” to investigate the Trump family.
“President Trump has spent his career hiding behind lawsuits, but, as New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I can assure him that no one is above the law — not even the president of the United States," James said in a statement on Tuesday. “The TRUST Act will shine a light on the president’s finances and finally offer transparency to millions of Americans yearning to know the truth. We have all the confidence that this law is legal and we will vigorously defend it against any court challenge.”
Jame's office is also currently investigating the Trump Organization for allegedly underpaying undocumented immigrants who worked at a Trump-owned golf club. They also subpoenaed financial records including loan applications and mortgages from institutions including Deutsche Bank as part of a probe of Trump Organization projects.
Last year, the state’s Trump-focused probes also included a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation, claiming it engaged in illegal activity and “unlawful political coordination” to benefit Trump’s personal and business interests. The Foundation agreed to dissolve, and James called on Trump to pay $8.4 million in penalties and restitution as part of the settlement.
Fox News' John Roberts, Ronn Blitzer and Kathleen Foster contributed to this report.