Judge orders Trump, New York, Ways and Means to try to reach deal on tax returns

A federal judge on Monday ordered the parties in a lawsuit over President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE's state tax returns to see if they can reach an agreement to prevent the case from becoming moot.

Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Trump, the House Ways and Means Committee, and New York officials to confer and file a status report by 6 p.m. Tuesday that either outlines an agreement or lays out the parties' positions if there's no agreement.

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Nichols issued the order after Trump filed an emergency motion last week. The motion asked the court to enjoin the Ways and Means Committee from requesting Trump's state tax returns under a new New York law until the president has an opportunity for judicial review. 

The Ways and Means Committee argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to bar it from requesting Trump's state tax returns. It also argued that its decision about whether to utilize the New York law is protected against a legal challenge under the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause.

Nichols said there seems to be a risk that without Trump receiving some sort of relief, the Ways and Means Committee could quickly request and receive Trump's tax returns, making the case quickly ripe and then moot.

He said he thought it was problematic that the Ways and Means Committee and the New York officials weren't committing to the court that they wouldn't request and produce Trump's state tax returns "tomorrow or Monday, or the Monday after."

At the same time, Nichols said that it seems inappropriate to enjoin the committee from requesting Trump's state tax returns because Trump wouldn't be harmed by the request itself.

Nichols said he wanted the parties in the lawsuit to see if they could reach an agreement to provide relief to Trump that's as modest as possible; that treads as lightly as possible, if at all, on concerns about separation of powers and the Speech or Debate Clause; and that preserves the ability for the court to adjudicate on the lawsuit only when more information is available.

The law Trump is challenging in the lawsuit allows the chairmen of Congress's tax committees to request public officials' state tax returns from the state's department of taxation and finance.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealBusiness groups keep pressure for trade deal amid impeachment fight Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Top Republican rejects Democratic chairman's approach to stopping surprise medical bills MORE (D-Mass.), who is seeking to obtain Trump’s federal tax returns from the IRS, has not made a final decision about whether he will use the New York law to request Trump's state tax returns.

In court papers filed Monday morning, Trump also suggested that instead of enjoining the Ways and Means Committee, the court could instead enjoin the New York officials, preventing them from providing Trump's state tax returns to Congress until the president can be heard in court. The New York officials argued that they were blindsided by this request and that the court shouldn't consider it until they can respond to it.

The lawsuit over the New York law is one of two closely watched ongoing lawsuits in the fight over Trump's tax returns. At the beginning of the month, the Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and the IRS asking a judge to order the agencies to comply with Neal's request and subpoenas for Trump's federal tax returns.

Trump last week had argued that the two lawsuits were related and should be handled by the same judge. But Judge Trevor McFadden, who is handling the lawsuit over Trump's federal tax returns, disagreed, leading the lawsuit over the president's state tax returns to be randomly assigned to Nichols.