Fight for Trump’s Tax Returns Is Held Over McGahn Subpoena

WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge put the House lawsuit for President Donald Trump’s tax returns on hold Friday. Unlike other cases across the country that have ground to a halt, however, this stay relates not to the coronavirus pandemic but to another subpoena facing appellate scrutiny.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden wrote in a 7-page order this morning that further proceedings hinge on what the D.C. Circuit decides in a separate case seeking to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.

Then-White House counsel Don McGahn at a 2018 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

In a ruling that has since been vacated to allow for en banc review, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit previously ruled the court lacks jurisdiction to decide whether the same “absolute immunity” that shields Trump from testifying to Congress also protects his close advisers.

“The walk from the Capitol to our courthouse is a short one, and if we resolve this case today, we can expect Congress’s lawyers to make the trip often,” U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith wrote for the 2-1 majority last month.

In the tax-returns case, the House urged Judge McFadden in early March to move forward with the lawsuit over the president’s financial records. But McFadden was hesitant, stating that the case was a “moving target” given the House’s then-ongoing petition for a rehearing en banc.

A Trump appointee, McFadden noted in his ruling today that the panel ruling in McGahn “calls into question whether the court has jurisdiction over any of the Committee’s claims.”

“The subpoena-enforcement issue is unsettled for now,” McFadden wrote later. “And piecemeal litigation would be an inefficient use of resources. These reasons alone favor a stay.”

Both parties in the case have recognized that the eventual ruling on McGahn from the full D.C. Circuit will impact whether the U.S. District Court has jurisdiction over the issue of Trump’s tax returns.

Earlier this month, a private Trump attorney urged McFadden to dismiss the case, while the Justice Department, representing the IRS, said the case should be held until McGahn is resolved.

The D.C. Circuit was set to rehear McGahn on April 28. It remains unclear whether the case will proceed as scheduled, however, as the court has suspended all in-person, onsite oral arguments until further notice.

“Counsel and the public are advised that in keeping with the public health precautions recommended in response to Covid-19, and in light of developing circumstances, the court will continue to monitor and examine options for cases currently scheduled for oral argument,” the D.C. Circuit said in a Tuesday order.

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