Democrats push judge for quick action on Trump tax returns lawsuit

House Democrats are looking to speed up their lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS over their refusal to turn over President Trump’s tax returns.

The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday filed a motion in federal court in Washington, D.C., for summary judgment, asking Judge Trevor McFadden to direct Treasury and the IRS to comply with the committee’s requests and subpoenas for six years of the president’s federal tax returns. 

The committee also asked McFadden, a Trump appointee, to consider the case on an expedited basis, proposing a schedule under which briefs on relevant issues would be filed by Oct. 25 with oral arguments taking place “as soon as practicable” after that.

In its own court filing Tuesday, Treasury and the IRS asked that the committee’s summary judgment motion be put on hold until after McFadden resolves the administration’s own forthcoming motion to dismiss the House lawsuit.

{mosads}The Ways and Means Committee filed the lawsuit in July, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig rejected the requests and subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns.

In arguing on Tuesday that the judge should direct the administration to provide the tax returns, the committee said that the “defendants’ defiance is an extraordinary departure from established principles of law.” 

The committee said that its subpoenas are valid, and that the section of the tax code under which it requested Trump’s tax returns doesn’t give Treasury and the IRS any discretion.

Treasury has said that it thinks the committee’s requests and subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns lack a “legitimate legislative purpose,” and that Democrats’ real purpose for seeking the documents is to expose the tax information of a political rival. 

But the committee argues its requests and subpoenas do have a legitimate legislative purpose, because the panel is conducting oversight and considering legislative proposals relating to how the IRS enforces tax laws against a president.

The committee revealed in its new court filings that on July 29, it received an unsolicited communication from a federal employee it claims made credible allegations of possibly inappropriate efforts to influence the IRS’s mandatory audit program of presidents. 

Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) wrote to Mnuchin earlier this month, asking for records relating to those concerns. Mnuchin replied that the Treasury didn’t have any records that were covered under the tax code section under which Neal made his request. Mnuchin also said that Neal should raise his concerns with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The administration argued that it plans to file a motion to dismiss the case that will raise issues about “whether political conflicts between the elected Branches fall within the sphere of authority that the Constitution assigns to the Federal courts.” It asked McFadden to stay the committee’s motion until the judge rules on its motion to dismiss.

The administration argued that its motion and the committee’s motion will require the court to consider different issues. The administration is proposing a schedule under which oral arguments on its motion to dismiss would be held the week of Oct. 16 or soon after that.

But the committee, which argued that it has standing to sue, thinks that the judge should consider the administration’s expected motion to dismiss and the panel’s summary judgment motion concurrently, arguing the motions are likely to raise overlapping issues.

The House panel argued that “time is of the essence” in resolving the case, since the current Congress will end in January 2021. 

“The Committee must obtain a prompt resolution of the issues in this case if it is to have enough time to investigate the tax issues implicated by President Trump’s tax returns and return information and propose and pass any legislation that it may deem appropriate in response,” the panel argued.

The administration, however, said that the committee’s concern about the speed of the case “rings hollow,” since Neal didn’t request Trump’s tax returns until several months after he became chairman, and the lawsuit wasn’t filed until weeks after Treasury and the IRS rejected Neal’s subpoenas.

Trump and several of his business entities also are being heard in the case as defendant-intervenors. They argued on Tuesday that the committee’s motion for summary judgment should be postponed until after they can request information about Democrats’ true motives for requesting Trump’s tax returns.

Updated at 6 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Richard Neal Steven Mnuchin

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