US judge to hear Trump bid to block House subpoena for financial records

WASHINGTON - A federal judge here is set to hear arguments Tuesday over whether President Donald Trump's accounting firm must turn over years of his financial records to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta has proposed fast-tracking a decision on Trump's petition to quash a committee subpoena, drawing an 11th-hour objection Monday by his lawyers that deciding the full case, not just staying the subpoena while the case proceeds, would undermine the president's constitutional rights to due process.

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The lawsuit is part of a wave of legal battles waged by the president to shield his personal finances from investigators, including congressional Democrats, state lawmakers and regulators. Several fights are spilling over to the courts, asking judges to weigh in on the proper balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

Mehta, a 2014 Obama appointee, has said he would also hear arguments at the morning hearing over whether speeding a decision for a review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit would mark a rush to judgment.

The lawsuit was brought April 22 by Trump and several of his businesses against House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Trump's accounting firm.

In a public notice Thursday, Mehta said the sole question before him is whether the House committee's issuance of a sweeping subpoena to Mazars USA for the financial records of Trump and various associated entities marks "a valid exercise of legislative power." The question "is fully briefed," Mehta said, adding that the court could "discern no benefit from an additional round of legal arguments."

Lawyers for Trump and his businesses argued that trying the full case before they had ample opportunity to gather evidence "would disserve the parties, the judiciary, and the public by ensuring this unprecedented constitutional dispute between the President and Congress is decided without full merits briefing or a complete record."

Even if the court agrees, Mehta could still decide to allow the subpoena to stand while litigation continues.

Congressional Democrats accuse Trump of trying to stonewall lawmakers' oversight until after the 2020 election, while the president's team counters that it will not tolerate a campaign of "congressional Presidential harassment."

Trump sues in bid to block congressional subpoena of financial records

Cummings's panel last month subpoenaed Mazars, seeking documents to corroborate testimony by the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who said at a congressional hearing that Trump intentionally misreported the value of his assets for personal gain.

Other House panels have requested Trump's banking records and tax returns, while his company also faces inquiries from New York state regulators and is defending itself in two lawsuits alleging that the company violates the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments.

In suing the House as well as his banks and accounting firm, Trump's lawyers argued that the president's past personal dealings are irrelevant to the legislative branch's fundamental duty of writing bills. They accuse Democrats of "assuming the powers of the Department of Justice, investigating (dubious and partisan) allegations of illegal conduct by private individuals."

Cummings's committee has called Trump's attempt to quash the subpoena a long-shot bid to delay the unearthing of politically damaging information about the president until after the 2020 election and to obscure from the public ongoing conflicts of interest by officials charged with executing the nation's laws.

"Trump's attacks on the Committee's investigations amount to nothing more than political histrionics and hyperbole," the panel's lawyers wrote, calling the subpoena consistent with Congress's duties to weigh legislation, conduct oversight, manage spending of tax dollars and inform the public.

Mazars attorney Henry Schuelke has said the firm took no position on the case.

 

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