Trump, House Tell Judge They Can’t Agree On Next Steps In NY Tax Returns Dispute

UNITED STATES - APRIL 4: Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., talks with reporters in the Capitol before entering the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the Capitol on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 4: Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., talks with reporters in the Capitol before entering the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the Capitol on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A federal judge who punted on a dispute over President Trump’s New York tax returns on Monday will not get the easy way out he was looking for, the parties said on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols had asked that Trump, House Democrats and New York state officials negotiate an agreement that would address the concerns the judge raised about a new law in New York that would allow Congress to request the President’s state tax returns.

The parties said in a joint status report on Tuesday that the could not reach such an agreement and offered competing proposals for how the case should move forward.

Trump last week preemptively sued the House Ways and Means Committee and New York State officials over the law, even though Democrats have not filed a formal request for the returns yet, nor have they committed to doing so.

Trump brought the lawsuit in his personal capacity.

He asked — citing the All Writs Act — that the court proactively block the Democrats from making the request. Much of the discussion at a hearing in front of Nichols on Monday was about whether that relief would violate the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause — which gives lawmakers special protections for their actions within the legislative sphere — and Nichols seemed to reluctantly acknowledge that it would.

However, he expressed frustration that New York could almost instantaneously produce the records for the House once they were requested — if the request met the new law’s conditions — leaving Trump no time to challenge the move legally. He gave them until Tuesday evening to negotiate a proposal on how to avoid that scenario.

In the status report, Trump suggested there be a two week waiting period, either before the House formally makes a request or after New York receives it, to allow him to litigate the request before the records are produced.

The House committee is arguing that the judge should not grant Trump’s request that committee be blocked from making a move towards getting the tax returns: “If the Court were to grant the requested relief against the Committee, as far as counsel for the House is aware, it would be the first time that any Court would have overridden Speech or Debate Clause immunity and enjoined the Senate, the House, or any component of the Legislative Branch in the absence of any action having been taken first by Congress.”

An issue that came up in Monday’s hearing is whether the D.C.-based judge — if unable legally to block the House from making the request — would even have authority to order the New York officials not to produce the records.

The New York plaintiffs are asking for the judge to go ahead and adjudicate the question of the judge’s authority. Under that proposal, the New York officials offered to hold off on producing the records until at least one week after the decision on those issues is handed down.

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