Trump NY tax case judge opens door for president’s day in court

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President Donald Trump scored a minor victory as the U.S. judge hearing his lawsuit to block New York from turning over his tax returns to House Democrats told the state to wait until after he rules on its request to dismiss the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols ordered New York to notify him if a request for the documents is made and to hold on to them for at least a week following his ruling on the dismissal request.

The decision gives the president a chance for his day in court to fight the Democrats’ anticipated request, with which New York would be forced to comply under a recently implemented law. As the judge made clear, the documents could be handed over within minutes in today’s computer-connected society.

Nichols issued the order Thursday after the third Washington federal court hearing on the suit, which was filed nine days ago.

Nichols, who took the bench last month, is grappling with issues raised by the president’s attempt to sue the House Ways and Means Committee and a U.S. state over a request that hasn’t been made and may be barred by law.

Trump claims the committee has no legitimate legislative need for the records and seeks only to mine them for politically damaging information. He has accused New York of enacting an unconstitutional and retaliatory new law giving the legislators access to the information.

Trump’s lawyer sought an emergency order keeping the case before the court even though committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, hasn’t requested the tax information.

The lawmakers say they can’t be sued because they’re shielded by the U.S. Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause. New York claims it can’t be hauled into a Washington federal court to fight a lawsuit over the legality of a state law.

Nichols said that in the absence of an actual request from Neal, the case isn’t ready for litigation. Neal remains noncommittal on whether there will be a request.

On Monday, the judge urged all sides to come to some resolution that would allow the president to have his day in court by creating an interval between the lawmakers’ request and the state’s response.

A day later, all the attorneys told the judge they couldn’t reach an agreement, although New York offered a compromise that ultimately formed the foundation for Nichols’s order.

The judge also set a briefing schedule for the state’s anticipated motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it should’ve been filed in New York.

Neal’s committee sued the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service July 2, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the panel’s request for Trump’s federal tax returns for the past six years.

That case is being handled by U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden who rejected a request from the president’s lawyers to also deal with the state case because Trump’s lawyers said the two cases are related. McFadden disagreed and the state case was assigned to Nichols.

Both judges were Trump’s nominees to the federal bench.

The case is Trump v. Committee on Ways and Means, 19-cv-2173, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

— With assistance from Laura Davison

Bloomberg News
Tax returns State taxes Lawsuits Donald Trump Richard Neal