Trump lawyers ask judge to toss out Dems’ tax return lawsuit

The Trump administration, along with the president and several of his business entities, on Friday filed a motion to dismiss House Democrats’ lawsuit on President Trump’s federal tax returns.

The administration and Trump are arguing that the House Ways and Means Committee can’t conscript the federal courts to take its side in a dispute with the executive branch over a congressional demand for information.

The motion was expected. The administration had said in previous court filings that it had planned to file a motion to dismiss the case, raising issues about whether the court has the authority to resolve the dispute over Trump’s tax returns.

{mosads}The administration’s motion was filed after Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee in federal district court in Washington, D.C., last week denied Democrats’ motion to expedite the case and denied Democrats’ motion for summary judgment as premature.

The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee filed the lawsuit in July in an effort to get the court to order the Treasury Department and IRS to comply with their requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

The lawsuit names the Treasury Department, IRS and the leaders of those agencies as defendants. Trump and his businesses were later added to the case as intervenor-defendants, meaning they also have the opportunity to be heard in the case.

The motion to dismiss, which was filed in federal court in D.C., was more than 70 pages long, including the cover sheet and table of contents. It did not address the merits of House Democrats’ lawsuit. Instead it focused on whether the court can exercise its authority in the dispute.

Lawyers for the administration and Trump gave several reasons why they think Democrats’ lawsuit should be dismissed.

For example, the lawyers argue that the Ways and Means Committee lacks standing to sue because the case isn’t the type of dispute that is traditionally thought to be appropriate for the judicial process. They also argued that the committee lacks standing because it didn’t state a clearly identifiable injury.

“This Court should not permit the Committee to supplant the centuries-old process of political negotiation and accommodation with zero-sum litigation in federal court,” the lawyers wrote.

The Trump lawyers also took issue with the fact that the Ways and Means Committee’s lawsuit was authorized by the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — a group of top House members with a Democratic majority — rather than by a vote of the full House.

“Most simply, the full House has not authorized this lawsuit,” the lawyers wrote. “Nor has the full House determined that lack of access to the particular information at issue here would impair its legislative functions—a judgment that is, by its nature, case-specific.” 

Additionally, the lawyers argued that federal judges incorrectly decided that they could exercise their authority in previous lawsuits over House subpoenas of Harriet Miers, former White House counsel to then-President George W. Bush, and Eric Holder, attorney general under then-President Obama.

The lawyers argued that the Ways and Means Committee does not have a cause of action to enforce their demands for Trump’s tax returns in federal court.

And the lawyers argued that at a minimum, the court shouldn’t hear the case until the parties have “earnestly pursued and exhausted the constitutionally contemplated processes of negotiation and mutual accommodation.” 

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) first requested Trump’s tax returns in April, under a section of the tax code that states that the Treasury Secretary “shall furnish” tax returns requested by the chairs of Congress’s tax committees. Neal said that his committee is interested in the tax returns as it conducts oversight and considers legislative proposals related to how the IRS audits presidents.

But the Treasury and the IRS rejected Neal’s requests, as well as subpoenas he subsequently issued, arguing that they lack a legitimate legislative purpose and that Democrats’ real reason for seeking Trump’s tax returns is to expose the tax documents of a political rival. Both the administration and House Democrats had expected the dispute to be resolved in the courts.

House Democrats’ lawsuit against the administration is one of several lawsuits relating to Trump’s tax returns.

Trump is seeking to block subpoenas that the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees have issued to Deutsche Bank, and the bank told a federal appeals court last week that it has some tax returns related to the subpoenas. The subpoenas ask for tax returns and other financial records of Trump, his three oldest children and his businesses.

Additionally, Trump is challenging a New York law that allows Congress to request public officials’ state tax returns and a California law that requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to appear on the state’s primary ballot. The Republican National Committee and voters represented by the conservative group Judicial Watch are also challenging the California law in separate lawsuits.

Trump is the first president in decades who hasn’t made any of his tax returns public. The president has cited an IRS audit in refusing to release his returns, but the IRS has said that nothing prevents people from releasing their own tax information.

Updated at 7:49 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Eric Holder Richard Neal

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