Published: Fri, October 11, 2019

Trump loses appeal to stop House subpoena of his tax documents

Trump loses appeal to stop House subpoena of his tax documents

A federal judge in Manhattan ordered Mazars to comply with the subpoena, but Trump has appealed.

The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Mazars in April - prompting a lawsuit from the president, who said the move had "no legislative objective".

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Friday that Democratic lawmakers should get the documents they have subpoenaed from Mazars USA.

Mr Trump went to court to prevent Mazars from turning over the records. The same Manhattan appeals court has yet to rule in that case.

The court is expected to hear arguments in that case on October 23.

One of the two judges who issued the majority opinion was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, the other by former President Barack Obama.

'The most important question is not whether Congress has put forth some legitimate legislative goal, but rather whether Congress is investigating suspicions of criminality or allegations that the President violated a law, ' Rao wrote, declaring that the House of Representatives 'may not use the legislative power to circumvent the protections and accountability that accompany the impeachment power'. The Committee on Oversight and Reform has consistently maintained that it seeks to determine whether the President broke the law, but it has not invoked Congress's impeachment power to support this subpoena.

While the committee claims it needs the documents for an evaluation of current government ethics laws, the president's team has told the court that the investigation "serves no legitimate legislative objective". Investigations of impeachable offenses simply are not, and never have been, within Congress's legislative power.

In dissent, Rao wrote that the committee should have asked for the records under the House's impeachment power, not its legislative authority.

'Upholding the subpoenas 'would turn Congress into a roving inquisition over a co-equal branch of government, ' she added.

In the lengthy decision, the circuit court writes, "The fact that every President during the last four decades has filed financial disclosures offers persuasive evidence". And that is enough.

To the dissent, however, this makes no difference. The subpoena was issued in April, well before House Democrats announced they were in the midst of an impeachment inquiry of the president, and the fight is not directly related to that inquiry.

The goal behind the demand, however, isn't to craft legislation; as Rao points out, it's to pursue impeachment, which is not a legislative function. The president's lawyers, hired specifically to help keep his tax returns hidden, sued to block enforcement of the subpoena, arguing that Congress lacks the legal authority to scrutinize alleged presidential misdeeds. That would seem to be more the case when demanding subpoenas for private tax records for years when a president wasn't in any elective office at all. Options include a request for the appeal to be heard "en banc" or, possibly, taking it to the Supreme Court. U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero earlier Monday was unsparing toward the president's legal team as he dismissed Trump's lawsuit seeking to block the subpoena. At that point, the court might as well take all of the Trump tax-return actions and consolidate them, if for no other reason than to only have to do this once.

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