Judge delays ruling in House lawsuit over Trump tax returns

A federal judge on Tuesday stayed House Democrats’ lawsuit over their efforts to obtain President Trump’s tax returns from the IRS until a court decision is issued in a separate case.

Judge Trevor McFadden, a judge in the federal district court in D.C. appointed by Trump, said he won’t issue a ruling in the tax return case until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issues a ruling in a case where House Democrats are seeking to enforce a subpoena against former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

McFadden’s announcement of a stay in the tax-return case came after he held a telephone conference with the lawyers involved in the case Tuesday afternoon. A notice about the teleconference appeared on the docket for the case only minutes before the call’s start time. McFadden’s reasons for issuing the stay weren’t immediately clear.

The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in July, asking a judge to order the Treasury Department and IRS to comply with requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s federal tax returns.

In September, lawyers for the administration and Trump’s personal lawyers filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Ways and Means Committee can’t force the federal courts to take a side in the inter-branch dispute. A hearing on the motion was held in November, during which time McFadden signaled that he may be willing to let the House’s lawsuit proceed.

Later in November, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee on the D.C. District Court, ruled that McGahn must comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena demanding his testimony in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

The Justice Department appealed the ruling and House Democrats are keeping up the fight even after approving articles of impeachment against President Trump, telling the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that McGahn’s testimony could help them decide whether more articles are warranted. A three-judge panel with the appeals heard oral arguments in the McGahn case earlier this month.

Both sides in the tax-return lawsuit said in court documents to McFadden late last year that the McGahn case is relevant to the case over Trump’s tax filings.

The Ways and Means Committee highlighted that Brown Jackson ruled that congressional committees have standing to sue when their subpoenas are not complied with. 

The Trump lawyers said they disagreed with Brown Jackson’s decision, and that “given the overlapping threshold questions in the McGahn litigation and this case, any decision by the D.C. Circuit in the McGahn case is likely to be highly relevant to this Court’s resolution of the pending motion to dismiss.”

The Supreme Court will hear a group of cases, likely in March, over separate subpoenas for the president’s tax returns and other financial records from his accounting firm and bank.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department did not immediately respond when asked for comment, and neither did spokespeople for Ways and Means Committee Democrats.

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