Trump Judge Attempts Triple Axel Case Avoidance Jump And Falls On His Ass
US District Judge Carl Nichols is having a Maalox morning. First, Judge Trevor McFadden, a fellow Trump appointee on the DC District, noped out of the president's nonsense "First Amendment" lawsuit to stop the House Ways and Means Committee from getting his New York State tax returns. Reasoning that the case was insufficiently related to the Committee's suit against the IRS to merit a spot on his docket, Judge McFadden dropped that hot potato back into the random assignment pool, where it was promptly dumped on Judge Nichols's desk. Thanks, pal!
So Judge Nichols scheduled an emergency hearing for Monday and asked the parties to prettyplease work this shit out among themselves and spare him having to decide whether Trump can stop the state of New York from complying with its own law and handing his tax returns over to Congress.
The president's lawyers are demanding Congress be enjoined from asking New York for his returns -- a clear violation of the separation of powers and Speech or Debate Clause -- and they also want the judge to bar New York from handing them over if asked, which presents some major jurisdictional issues. But if everyone could just agree to keep the status quo ante for a hot second, like they did in the Mazars and Deutsche Bank cases over the president's financial records, maybe His Honor can figure out a way to get rid of this flaming bag of dogshit masquerading as litigation.
But alas ... it was not meant to be. Last night, the parties released a Joint Status Report saying that they could not agree to an interim arrangement to ensure the case doesn't become mooted in the ten minutes it would take for Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal to email over a request to the New York Department of Taxation and Finance and have all Trump's dirty little secrets come zinging back to him on Al Gore's internet.
Trump's lawyers would like Judge Nichols to postpone the case more or less forever, imposing a 14-day waiting period on New York before complying with any request, and then waiting to address any jurisdictional issues until Congress actually asks for the returns --- ideally, NEVER.
The Ways and Means Committee is appropriately insistent that Judge Nichols AIN'T THEIR DADDY, because the Speech or Debate Clause immunizes them entirely from this kind of injunction. They'll ask for what they bloody like, thankyouverymuch.
Only New York has provided the court with a possible escape hatch, agreeing to a one-week delay on responding to a congressional request if the court will address its jurisdictional arguments ASAP. To wit, what the hell is a DC federal court doing adjudicating the validity of a New York law that will be carried out entirely within the state of New York?
This case ought to be a slam dunk, but Judge Nichols is a Federalist Society wingnut with a hard-on for expanding presidential authority, so who even knows? He made some worrisome noises during the hearing about Speech or Debate immunity only attaching after Congress proves it's acting with legitimate legislative intent -- a theory which has zero basis in law or precedent -- because he is a Trump appointee after all. He also seemed willing to issue an injunction on New York, which would be immediately challenged and might well be overturned for lack of jurisdiction. Which is exactly why he wanted the state to voluntarily agree to do it, saving him the embarrassment of having his own blatantly partisan ruling shit on by a panel of his colleagues or the appellate court.
It's all so, achingly stupid. And could have been avoided if Richard Neal had gotten off his ass and requested the returns three weeks ago when Cuomo signed the law. Let's go, people! Time's a-wastin'!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.