A federal judge pressured lawyers for Donald Trump and House Democrats to settle their long legal battle over a subpoena of financial records from the former president’s accounting firm, telling them he had contacted a mediator.
At a hearing in Washington on Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said he’d discussed the case with Richard Levie, a senior judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court with experience in arbitration. Mehta urged lawyers on both sides to come to a compromise and said Levie was prepared to help.
“The parties ought to at least have some discussion, and do so in good faith, to see whether the subpoena can be narrowed in any way,” Mehta said. “Maybe it can’t be, but it’s incumbent upon all of us, before we go rushing into these tricky constitutional issues, to try to do that.”
Levie declined to comment. The hearing was the latest chapter in a winding legal dispute that began two years ago when the Democrats issued a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial information to the accounting firm, Mazars USA. Trump challenged the subpoena, and the case reached the Supreme Court last summer. The justices ruled 7-2 that congressional subpoenas seeking the president’s personal information must be “no broader than reasonably necessary” and ordered lower courts to determine whether the House’s request met that heightened standard.
Over the past few months, Trump’s lawyers and the House Democrats have argued back and forth about whether that standard should continue to apply now that Trump is a private citizen.
On Tuesday, Mehta expressed hope that the two sides could come to a compromise and avoid further litigation over that thorny constitutional question. In May, the parties said they were close to settling a dispute in a related case over a congressional subpoena to Deutsche Bank for years of Trump’s personal and business records.
Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the Democrats, said he was open to negotiations in the Mazars case as well but that he would want Trump’s lawyers to list the types of documents they might be willing to turn over to Congress.
“I believe the answer is going to be either none or close to none, in which case the House will continue to be frustrated,” he said.
Cameron Norris, a lawyer for Trump, said he would expect the House to initiate negotiations by indicating which documents it would be willing to drop from its subpoena to Mazars.
“The art of negotiations is the House needs to identify what it would no longer request in order to expect a deal,” Norris said.
After prodding from Mehta, Norris suggested he might be willing to see whether there were certain documents Trump would be open to handing over.
Mehta set a deadline of June 23 for the two sides to submit a status report
The dispute is one of several complex legal battles centered on the tax information, which Trump kept secret throughout his presidency. The new administration of President Joe Biden is still weighing whether to comply with a different House subpoena demanding that the Treasury Department turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
And Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has obtained Trump’s tax records from Mazars as part of a criminal investigation into the former president’s business dealings. It’s unclear, however, whether Vance will make those documents public.