Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed

Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed
© Getty Images

A federal judge on Wednesday signaled that he may let House Democrats' lawsuit over their requests and subpoenas for President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE's tax returns proceed.

The Trump administration and Trump's personal lawyers filed a motion to dismiss House Democrats' lawsuit in September, arguing that the Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee can't force the federal courts to take a side in the dispute. The committee filed a brief in response, urging the court to reject the administration's motion.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, didn't issue a ruling but gave some of his early thoughts about the parties' briefs and asked questions about their arguments.

ADVERTISEMENT

McFadden said that his "initial inclination" was that he probably does have subject matter jurisdiction over the case, adding that there's a history of efforts to enforce the House's subpoenas in court.

McFadden also asked the House's lawyers "to consider your causes of action" and inform him if they would be OK with withdrawing some of their counts if he ruled in favor of letting others move forward. The judge said he didn't want to rule on things he didn't need to rule on.

Additionally, McFadden said he wasn't going to direct the parties in the case to negotiate but that it would be smart for the parties to think about doing so.

Steven Meyers, a lawyer for the Department of Justice, said that the department's position is that legally the administration can't turn over Trump's tax returns but that there could be an accommodation over the Ways and Means Committee's interest in investigating the IRS's audits of presidents.

But Megan Barbero, a lawyer for the House, said during Wednesday's hearing that the committee's interest in the presidential audit process requires the panel to see Trump's tax returns and audit files.

McFadden replied to Barbero's comment that it seems to him "there could be common ground."

The Ways and Means Committee filed the lawsuit in July, after Treasury rejected requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump's personal and business federal tax returns, as well as for related audit files.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings Pelosi: Deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' Trump lawyers want heads up if Dems intend to request NY state tax returns MORE (D-Mass.) requested Trump's tax documents under a section of the federal tax code that states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" returns requested by the chairmen of congress's tax committees. But Treasury has argued that the request lacks a "legitimate legislative purpose."

The lawsuit is one of many over Trump's tax returns. On Monday, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump can't block the Manhattan District Attorney's Office's grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, which was issued to his accounting firm.

Trump is the first president in decades who hasn't made any of his tax returns public. He has said he won't release his returns while he's under audit, but the IRS has said audits don't prevent people from releasing their own tax information.