May 15, 2019
In a Washington, D.C., courtroom on May 14, lawyers representing the Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee, Mazars USA, and Donald Trump faced off over release of the president’s financial records.
While the verdict on whether Mazars—Trump’s accounting firm—must produce all of the president’s financial statements, communications, and other documents related to its relationship with the president may not come this week; during this first hearing, the judge seemed to be leaning toward approval of the congressional subpoena, CNN reported.
Indeed, the judge, Amit Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, underlined during the hearing how federal courts have almost never sided with requests to limit congressional subpoenas, and Congress has done historically important work with investigations in the past, like in the Watergate and Whitewater investigations.
“Am I right there isn’t a single Supreme Court case or appellate case since 1880 that has found a congressional subpoena overstepped its bounds?” Mehta asked Trump’s lawyer. “I agree there are outer limits, but it’s not clear to me what they are.”
In this case, the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Mazars USA for all financial records related to Trump, a handful of his companies, and his foundation from 2011 through 2018.
Trump’s personal legal team then sued Mazars to stop the subpoena, prompting the House to step up in court to argue for its investigative request.
According to CNN, “The case weighs the extent of Congress’ authority and the personal privacy claims of the president—in a court system that has generally refrained from infringing on congressional investigations, including subpoenas.”
“This is an effort to engage in law enforcement, not to legislate,” said attorney William Consovoy, who is representing Trump.
Doug Letter, the House general counsel, disputed that characterization.
“Congress is not trying to send President Trump to jail,” he said. “But we can still look into … whether someone is violating the law.”
And that is a decision that Trump is trying desperately to delay with this suit. Indeed, the president’s attorneys have said that Judge Mehta is deliberately fast-tracking these hearings—and, in doing so, is not giving them a fair shot in court.
The accounting firm has not taken sides and is willing to hand the documentation over, should the judge decide in favor of the House committee.
Mazars became a target in the House investigation after former Trump personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen accused Trump of fudging his wealth in an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football team and reduce his real estate tax burden.
The House has argued that it has the authority to subpoena Trump’s information, and says it is investigating potential constitutional, conflict of interest, and ethical questions related to Trump’s financial holdings.
Trump’s attorneys, conversely, say the President is being targeted by the Democrats for political reasons — that the subpoena doesn’t have a legislative purpose. They also argue Trump will be harmed if his private information from his accountant is exposed.
Research contact: @CNNPolitics