Washington — The gridlock on Capitol Hill made its way down Constitution Avenue and into the courtroom of Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday, as attorneys representing former President Donald Trump and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sparred over the release of Mr. Trump's financial records held by his accounting firm, Mazars.
Thesent the case back to lower courts for further consideration last year, and an appeals court did the same. Now the seemingly perpetual tug-of-war over a twice-issued congressional subpoena once again sits before Mehta, a judge on the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia who originally ruled in favor of the Oversight Committee in allowing the documents' release.
This time, Mehta appears less keen on having the case continue up the judicial food chain, warning the parties during a status conference on Tuesday that they "could be seeing another extended period of litigation before anybody sees a single document."
The judge said there were "advantages" to productive negotiations between the two sides, which might include the House narrowing the scope of the subpoena or the former president agreeing to the release of certain documents to avoid protracted litigation. The subpoena demands eight years of Mr. Trump's financial records.
So far, however, Mehta said he was "struck by what seemed to be the absence of any discussions here" and revealed he had reached out to a mediator who could potentially help facilitate discussions should the parties agree.
But agree they have not.
Mr. Trump's attorneys asserted that although they have had a number of discussions with the House's lawyer, the prospect of Democrats narrowing the subpoena was "not in the cards." Talks between the two parties "fizzled on the vine," they said.
For his part, House counsel Douglas Letter told the court he is "furious" and pushed back on the notion that negotiations at the current stage of the case were possible.
"Negotiations mean that some types of documents will be surrendered, " he argued. "We need to know what kinds of things will be turned over" before adjusting the scope of the subpoena.
"The committee is going to have my head," Letter continued. "This has dragged on forever."
The attorney, who represents House Democrats in other legal battles over Mr. Trump's financial documents, said he had "begged" the former president's attorneys for information regarding the specific documents Mazars may have, but his efforts have so far been futile.
Pushing back on this description, Mr. Trump's lawyer argued for a more specific list of demands from the Oversight Committee. Letter said that although such information may be possible for the House to produce, the likely outcome is that the documents they most want are the very ones the former president most wants to shield from scrutiny.
Throughout Tuesday's back-and-forth, Mehta held firm that a negotiated outcome would be an advantageous end to the legal battle, and asked the parties to return to court later this month for further discussions.