Judge temporarily blocks New York from turning over Trump's tax returns

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By Pete Williams  with NBC News Politics
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump waves as he walks to Air Force One as he departs on Aug. 1, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, for a campaign rally in Cincinnati.   -  Copyright  Alex Brandon AP

A federal judge ordered New York state authorities Thursday to take no action, for the time being, on turning over President Donald Trump's state tax returns if they're requested by Congress.

Federal District Court Judge Carl Nichols of Washington agreed with the president's lawyers, who said if they waited to take legal action until after the tax returns were turned over, it would be too late to challenge the state law because the tax documents would have already been made public.

The judge set courtroom argument on the issue for August 29.

The House Ways and Means Committee has been trying since April to get access to the president's federal tax returns, citing a federal law that allows inspection of the documents to verify that the IRS is properly auditing a president's returns. But the Treasury Department denied the request, saying that it served no legitimate legislative purpose.

In light of that stalemate, New York's legislature passed a law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo July 8, that requires tax authorities in the state to provide the returns filed by certain government officials, including the president, if a requesting congressional committee has already asked for the returns from the Treasury Department.

Trump's lawyers filed a lawsuit in late July challenging the law, claiming that examining an official's state returns would shed no light on how the IRS audits federal returns. The lawsuit accused the state of passing the law "to discriminate and retaliate against President Trump for his speech and politics." The president's lawyers asked the judge for an order blocking Congress from asking New York for the state tax returns.

Thursday's order forbids New York officials from delivering any of Trump's returns to the House Ways and Means Committee and directed them to notify him if any requests for the documents are received from Congress.