Almost immediately after Democrats took control of Congress following the 2018 elections, a subpoena was issued demanding President Donald Trump’s tax returns. When that subpoena was defied by the Treasury Department, House Democrats filed a lawsuit to try and enforce it via the courts.
That lawsuit has now been placed on hold indefinitely by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. who cited the close similarities between this case and another involving House Democrats and the Trump administration that is already working its way through the appeals process, Politico reported.
Trump tax return case on hold
Judge Trevor McFadden, an appointee of President Trump, issued an order on Friday which noted the similarities between the tax returns case and another in which House Democrats seek to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.
McFadden informed the court that he “will await further proceedings in McGahn” before taking any additional action on the tax returns case. Like in the McGahn case, House Democrats are demanding the courts step in and enforce a subpoena issued against a Trump administration official, in this case, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The Hill reported that Judge McFadden had initially placed a temporary hold on the tax returns case in January for much the same reason, as the McGahn case was set to be heard by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That panel ruled that House Democrats had no standing with the courts to seek enforcement of the subpoena, which prompted the Democrats to appeal the case to the full D.C. Circuit for rehearing.
Given the similarities in the cases, Judge McFadden has decided to wait until the issue is thus settled before proceeding any further with the tax returns case.
Similarities to McGahn case cited
The Hill noted that the House Democrats’ case concerning the tax returns actually contains two separate demands — enforcement of the subpoena of Mnuchin and the IRS for the records, as well as of general requests of the IRS made under specific provisions of the tax code.
McFadden had asked Democrats if they would drop the subpoena of Mnuchin in light of the three-judge panel’s ruling on the McGahn subpoena, in which case the other requests under the tax code could have proceeded, but the Democrats declined that offer and insisted on pressing forward with both claims — hence, McFadden’s decision to delay the matter for the time being.
“The subpoena-enforcement issue is unsettled for now. And piecemeal litigation would be an inefficient use of resources. These reasons alone favor a stay,” McFadden ruled, according to Law & Crime. “Thus, the Court will await further proceedings in McGahn before it acts on either the subpoena-enforcement claim or the § 6103(f) claims.”
Coronavirus holding pattern
It remains to be seen how long the hold will last or even when the McGahn case will be taken up by the full D.C. appeals court — it is scheduled for late April — given the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the D.C. court to indefinitely suspend all in-person hearings and oral arguments for the time being out of an abundance of caution.
Democrats have long been seeking to obtain President Trump’s tax returns in the hope that those financial records could be used to harm him politically. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to wait a little while longer before finding out if they’ll even get that chance.