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Judge tosses Trump lawsuit seeking to block release of NY tax returns

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump stand

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump stand together during a wreath laying at the opening ceremony of the annual New York City Veterans Day Parade in Madison Square Park in New York on November 11, 2019.  Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/JUSTIN LANE

President Donald Trump’s attempt to go through a Washington district court to block a New York state law — one to give Congress access to his state income tax returns — has hit a dead end.

For now.

And the blow was delivered by a judge who Trump had nominated to the bench.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols on Monday dismissed Trump’s lawsuit against New York, saying the District of Columbia court had no jurisdiction. If Trump wanted to test the New York law, he probably should do so there, the judge wrote in an opinion issued Monday.

“For the reasons that follow, the court concludes that it does not presently have jurisdiction over either New York defendant,” Nichols wrote, referring to state Attorney General Letitia James and state Tax Commissioner Michael Schmidt, whom Trump had sued along with the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Mr. Trump bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction, but his allegations do not establish that the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute is satisfied here with respect to either defendant,” Nichols continued. “Mr. Trump has also not demonstrated that jurisdictional discovery is warranted. Mr. Trump may renew his claims against the New York defendants should future events trigger one or more provisions of the D.C. long-arm statute, and he may, of course, sue either New York defendant in another forum (presumably in New York).”

Nichols was Trump’s pick to fill a D.C. district court vacancy and was confirmed by the Senate last spring.

At issue is a New York statute Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed in July. It would allow congressional committees to access Trump’s New York State tax returns, potentially giving Democrats a way around the White House’s refusal to make available the president’s federal returns.

The income-tax bill authorized the New York Tax Department to release New York returns to one of three congressional committees upon request: the House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation. The state Legislature approved the bill earlier this year, largely along party lines.

“We have said all along that this lawsuit should be dismissed and we are pleased with the court’s conclusion," James said in a statement. "We have never doubted that this law was legal, which is why we vigorously defended it from the start and will continue to do so.”

However, with a lawsuit underway over Trump’s federal returns, it is not certain House Democrats will avail themselves of the president’s state returns.

Trump's attorneys reportedly have said they aren't likely to pursue the lawsuit in New York.

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