Thursday, 17 October, 2019

DC Circuit rejects Trump challenge to block House subpoena of financial records

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Deanna Wagner | 11 October, 2019, 21:39

Trump sued the House panel in April, arguing that its subpoena exceeded limits on Congress's investigative power. The president's lawyers will undoubtedly fight the ruling, either before the full appeals court or by going directly to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump and his attorneys argued that the committee's power to hold those in the executive branch to account extends neither to the president himself nor to the office he holds because of his "special" position within the third branch of government. "Without treading onto any other potentially fertile grounds from which constitutional legislation could flower, we conclude that given the constitutionally permissible options open to Congress in the field of financial disclosure, the challenged subpoena seeks 'information about a subject on which legislation may be had'".

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".

"Just as a congressional committee could not subpoena the President's high school transcripts in service of an investigation into K-12 education, nor subpoena his medical records as part of an investigation into public health, it may not subpoena his financial information except to facilitate an investigation into presidential finances" the majority opinion states.

Tatel was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

The lone dissent in Friday's ruling came from Judge Neomi Rao, who Trump nominated to the bench this year.

To the dissent, however, this makes no difference.

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Taking to Twitter, the president wrote after the ruling was released: "The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump", he wrote. Dissenting Op.at 44. In support, the dissent claims to rely on the "text and structure of the Constitution, its original meaning and longstanding practice". The House has made that point increasingly explicit even as it attempts to avoid making it formal.

On running for the White House, Trump broke with precedent, if not law, in not releasing any information about his tax affairs. 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. Pete Williams does a good job of breaking down the dispute for NBC and notes that Trump now has two choices.

Tatel and Millett cite former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis's 1926 argument that the goal of separation of powers is "not to avoid friction, but, by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy".

As of this morning, we're one step closer to seeing Donald Trump's hidden tax returns.

"As the Court reads it, presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration", wrote U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in his October 7 ruling.

Prediction: For Christmas, John Roberts will ask Santa a six-month supply of Pepcid and Excedrin.