President Donald Trump faces reporters as he departs for travel to Tupelo, Mississippi from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, November 1, 2019.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
A federal judge Tuesday halted the House Ways and Means Committee’s bid to obtain years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns, staying progress in that case until a ruling is made in a separate lawsuit involving former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Judge Trevor McFadden’s decision in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., gave new weight to McGahn’s case, which has become tied up in the congressional impeachment proceedings against Trump.
McFadden said in a court order that he gave his reasons for staying the case during a phone conference earlier Tuesday with lawyers for Trump and the Democrat-led House panel.
At the White House’s direction, McGahn had defied a subpoena issued by House Democrats as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. A federal judge in Washington ruled in November that McGahn must testify in compliance with the subpoena, and rejected the Trump administration’s claim of “absolute immunity” for certain advisors.
The Department of Justice appealed the case; a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments on Jan. 3. The case is expected to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee wrote in December that McGahn’s testimony is “central” to the impeachment investigation into Trump, which remains active even as the House prepares to vote to send articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday.
McGahn’s testimony could even potentially yield “new articles of impeachment” against Trump, those lawyers wrote.
A spokeswoman for Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass, as well as spokesmen for House general counsel and the Department of Justice, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment on McFadden’s stay.
Trump has refused to publicly disclose his tax returns either before or after winning the 2016 election, despite a longstanding tradition of presidential candidates and presidents doing so.