President Donald Trump’s lawyers asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking to force him to turn over his federal tax returns.
In a filing this evening, they argued the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the matter, contending the dispute ought to be settled between Congress and the White House.
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“The court should refrain from adjudicating this dispute so the parties can undertake this process of negotiation and mutual accommodation through which the elected branches for more than 200 years have resolved their recurrent disputes over access to information,” they said.
“The exertion of federal judicial power to declare victors in interbranch disputes of this nature would be inconsistent with the limits of [the Constitution’s] Article III and the separation-of-powers principles that inform them.”
The move comes after the judge hearing the case, Trevor McFadden, last week rejected House Democrats’ bid to fast track their suit.
They are seeking Trump’s returns under a 1924 law allowing the heads of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s tax information. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal issued a subpoena for six years’ worth of Trump’s personal and some of his business returns in May, which the administration has rejected.
Trump has steadfastly refused to disclose his tax information, defying a decades-old tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their returns.
It is one of several court fights over Trump’s finances. The president is simultaneously battling to prevent his longtime lender Deutsche Bank from turning over his returns and other financial records, and he is also suing to prevent Neal from tapping a recently passed New York law that would allow him to see Trump’s state filings upon request.
In yet another suit, Trump is fighting a California law requiring him to produce his returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot.
In the filing Friday, Trump’s lawyers ticked off a number of other reasons why Neal’s bid for the president’s returns ought to be tossed out.
They argued that while the 1924 statute cited by Democrats stipulates the Treasury Department “shall” turn over any returns requested by the chairs of the tax committees, it does not include an enforcement mechanism explaining what happens if someone ignores the law.
They contend Neal’s suit was not properly authorized by the House because the entire chamber did not vote to allow it to go forward. And they argue that lawmakers do not have the power to sue in court to enforce a subpoena against the executive branch, though Congress has done that before on relatively rare occasions.
“There is no constitutional or statutory basis for a Committee of the House of Representatives to take on the role of enforcing its subpoenas in the Federal courts where the Executive Branch has decided not to do so,” the filing says.