House Democrats on Tuesday asked a federal judge to lift his stay on their lawsuit over President Trump‘s tax returns.
Earlier this month, Judge Trevor McFadden, a judge in federal district court in D.C. appointed by Trump, put the case on hold until an appeals court ruling is issued in a separate lawsuit. But Democrats want McFadden to promptly move forward with the tax-returns case.
“This case has been stalled long enough,” the House’s lawyers wrote in a court filing. “The requested relief is necessary for the Committee to move forward with its pressing legislative and oversight inquiry, and to carry out its constitutional functions in the limited time remaining in this Congress.”
The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in July in an effort to get the courts to order the Treasury Department and IRS to comply with their requests and subpoenas for six years of Trump’s federal tax returns. In September, the Trump administration and Trump’s personal lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the committee can’t force the federal courts to take a side in the dispute.
McFadden issued a stay on the case on Jan. 14, pending a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a lawsuit where House Democrats are seeking to enforce a subpoena against former White House Counsel Don McGahn. McFadden told the House’s lawyers that he would consider lifting the stay if the appeals court didn’t rule quickly in the McGahn case, according to Democrats’ court filing.
The House’s lawyers argued in their filing that “any circumstances that might have justified a stay on January 14 no longer warrant a stay, especially a complete stay of all proceedings.”
The Trump administration’s position in the tax-return lawsuit that the House can’t enforce its subpoenas in court “has now been disavowed by President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial,” the House’s lawyers argued. In the impeachment trial, Trump’s defense team has argued that the House was required to pursue enforcement of subpoenas of executive-branch officials in court.
“That flatly contradicts the position President Trump and the Justice Department (DOJ) have advanced in this case,” the House’s lawyers said.
Democrats also noted that they filed their lawsuit more than six months ago and that the administration filed its motion to dismiss the case more than four months ago. They argued that any additional delay of the case would violate a Supreme Court directive that motions that effectively delay enforcement of congressional subpoenas be considered expeditiously by district courts.
McFadden has suggested that the Ways and Means Committee and the administration should consider negotiating to resolve the dispute over Trump’s tax returns. The House’s lawyers said that the committee has communicated with the administration to see if an accommodation is possible, but that the parties are still at an impasse because the administration continues to believe it’s barred from providing any of Trump’s tax returns and related IRS files.
House Democrats are asking McFadden to immediately lift the stay, deny the administration’s motion to dismiss and order the parties in the case to quickly file briefs about the merits of the case. Alternatively, they’re asking McFadden to partially lift the stay and direct briefs to be quickly filed on the merits of the case, so that he could rule on the entirety of the tax-returns case once the D.C. Circuit issues a ruling in the McGahn case.
Democrats’ court filing indicates that the administration and Trump’s personal lawyers oppose lifting the stay.