By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge put on hold a bid by a U.S. House of Representatives committee to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns, saying on Tuesday that he would wait for a much-anticipated appeals court decision relating to congressional subpoenas before issuing a ruling.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington issued a stay in a case the House Ways and Means Committee brought in July that sought to force the Treasury Department to hand over years of Trump’s individual and business federal tax returns.
In a brief written order that followed a phone call with lawyers, McFadden said he was awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on whether former White House lawyer Don McGahn must testify to Congress as part of the impeachment effort against Trump. Judges in that case are considering whether the courts should resolve disputes between Congress and the White House over documents and witnesses. A ruling could come by the end of the month.
The Ways and Means Committee’s lawsuit is just one of a handful of legal efforts to get access to Trump’s tax returns. Before Trump, modern U.S. presidential candidates had voluntarily disclosed their income tax returns.
The U.S. Supreme Court this year will consider a separate case, brought by New York prosecutors as part of a criminal investigation, seeking to force Trump’s longtime accounting firm to hand over eight years of his tax returns.
The Ways and Means Committee filed the lawsuit after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defied a congressional subpoena seeking the returns, despite a federal law that says the department “shall furnish” such records upon request.
The Justice Department said in an advisory legal opinion in June that the committee lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking Trump’s tax returns, and that Mnuchin therefore did not violate the law by refusing to provide them.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Leslie Adler)