Judge Puts Hold on House Lawsuit for Trump’s Tax Return to Await McGahn Ruling

March 21, 2020 Updated: March 22, 2020

A federal judge has put a House Democrat lawsuit seeking access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns on hold after an appeals court agreed to rehear a different case that raises similar legal issues to the case at hand.

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden issued a stay on March 20 in the tax records case, pending further orders from the district court. In this case, the House Ways and Means Committee is seeking Trump’s tax return information and has requested that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provide that information. After the treasury secretary refused to comply, the committee issued subpoenas to the Treasury Department and the IRS.

McFadden had previously put the case on hold in January, saying that he would wait for how the Washington Circuit Court would act in a separate lawsuit over a House subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn. The McGahn case raised similar issues about subpoena enforcement. It also raised issues about whether a court has the power to referee on disputes between Congress and the Trump administration.

In the March 20 order, McFadden cited that there were still uncertainties in how the Washington Circuit Court would act in the McGahn case given that the court had agreed to rehear the case.

“The D.C. Circuit granted rehearing en banc in McGahn, so all the reasons for a stay still hold,” McFadden, a Trump appointee, wrote in his order. “The subpoena-enforcement issue is unsettled for now. And piecemeal litigation would be an inefficient use of resources.

“The Court will await further proceedings in McGahn before it acts on either the subpoena-enforcement claim or the § 6103(f) claims.”

In February, the Washington Circuit ruled 2–1 that McGahn was not required to testify, agreeing with the DOJ’s argument that the Constitution bars federal courts from resolving disputes between the legislative and executive branches. Then on March 13, the full panel of the appeals court granted the House’s request for rehearing en banc (before all the judges of a court).

The Ways and Means Committee’s lawsuit is one of the many legal efforts the House Democrats have employed to try to obtain access to Trump’s tax and financial records.

In the case at hand, cited as Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives v. U.S. Department of the Treasury et al., the House Democrats’ challenge stems from one count of a subpoena-enforcement claim and seven counts from the Committee’s purported right to the tax return information under a section of the federal tax code.

The U.S. Supreme Court also will consider three separate cases seeking Trump’s financial records. The oral arguments for those cases were scheduled for the March session but have been since postponed in response to the CCP virus pandemic. Two of the cases stem from subpoenas that were issued earlier in the year by three House committees as part of their probes into the president’s dealings. Meanwhile, the third case deals with a criminal investigation in Manhattan.

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