2019-05-14 15:56:081 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Amit Mehta (Image source: Public domain)
Donald Trump has dug his feet in the sand with respect to congressional requests and subpoenas, stating all subpoenas will be blocked. It remains to be seen whether this will benefit him at all, but he's getting his first chance with the first of these cases to end up in court.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the accounting firm Mazars USA for all of Trump's financial statements, communications, and other documents, as well as those that relate to his businesses and his charity from 2011 through 2018. The president's legal team then fought back by suing Mazars to stop the subpoena, leading the House to take the case to court on Tuesday.
What's at stake here in court is whether Congress has the authority to make these moves and how much personal privacy the president is allowed.
"This is an effort to engage in law enforcement, not to legislate," said Trump attorney William Consovoy.
The House general counsel, Doug Letter, argued that point. "Congress is not trying to send President Trump to jail," he insisted. "But we can still look into ... whether someone is violating the law."
Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia noted during Tuesday's hearing that federal courts have almost never sided with requests to limit congressional subpoenas. Additionally, he mentioned that Congress has used investigations in the past to do historically important work, such as with Watergate and Whitewater.
"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?" he asked Trump's legal team. "I agree there are outer limits, but it's not clear to me what they are."
While Mehta said he wouldn't rule on the issue this week, Trump's attorneys believe the judge is moving too quickly. Despite that, even if Trump loses this case, it can still be held up in federal court for months, even past the 2020 election.
Last week Mehta said he was ready to hold a comprehensive hearing regarding the subpoena, fast-tracking Trump's challenge of the House. However, Trump's legal team does not feel they are getting a fair shot. Despite that, Mehta refused to cancel Tuesday's hearing.
Along with trying to stop Mazars from sharing Trump-related information with the House, Trump is also trying to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capitol One from sharing information in two separate subpoenas. The accounting firm and financial institutions have not chosen sides in these cases involving their client.
The House became aware of this information after the president's former longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, accused him in congressional testimony of not being truthful about his financial holdings when he unsuccessfully tried to buy the Buffalo Bills football team and reduce his tax burden with respect to his real estate.
The House argues their authority to subpoena the information as they are investigating potential constitutional, conflict of interest, and ethical questions that relate to the president's finances.
His attorneys, however, claim he is being targeted by the Democrats because of political reasons and that there is no legislative purpose for the subpoena. They added that he will be harmed if his private financial information is exposed.
However, those same arguments were used in a recent court challenge of a congressional subpoena. The research firm, Fusion GPS, tried to block a bank from turning over its financial records to House Republicans and lost out.
Next week a New York federal court will hear from Trump, his businesses, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump as they try to stop subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, Capitol One, and other banks.
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