Trump asks Supreme Court to block House subpoena for tax records

President Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a House subpoena for his financial records, urging the court for the second time in as many days to insulate him from an investigation.

A day after asking the justices to stop his tax returns from being turned over to a New York prosecutor, Trump on Friday filed an emergency request designed to ensure House Democrats don’t get access to his financial records while he presses an appeal in a separate case.

Together, the two cases are pulling the Supreme Court into the divisive battle over alleged wrongdoing in Trump’s personal and business dealings. The cases arrive as House Democrats are pressing an impeachment investigation of Trump.

A federal appeals court in Washington said in October that the House Oversight and Reform Committee could subpoena eight years of Trump’s financial records from Mazars, his accounting firm. The subpoena doesn’t explicitly ask for Trump’s tax returns.

On a 2-1 vote, the appeals court said the House panel had a legitimate legislative purpose for seeking the documents. The committee says it’s considering revising the federal ethics-in-government laws.

“This is a case of firsts,” Trump’s lawyers told the Supreme Court Friday. “It is the first time Congress has subpoenaed the personal records of a president that predate his time in office. It is the first time Congress has issued a subpoena, under its legislative powers, to investigate the president for illegal conduct. And for the first time, a court has upheld a congressional subpoena to the president for his personal papers.”

A dissenting judge on the appeals court said that Congress can’t investigate whether the president broke the law unless it is invoking its impeachment power, something the committee hadn’t yet done. A larger panel of judges then voted not to reconsider the case.

The House said it won’t oppose a 10-day delay on its subpoena for President Donald Trump’s financial records, while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to order a longer halt.

In a letter to the court, House General Counsel Douglas Letter said lawmakers would file a brief making their case for rejecting Trump’s request to block the subpoena by Nov. 22.

The letter came in one of two cases that are pulling the court into the divisive battle over alleged wrongdoing by Trump, who is also trying to stop his tax returns from being turned over to a New York prosecutor. The cases arrive as House Democrats are pressing an impeachment investigation of Trump.

Filed with Roberts

Trump filed his request with Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergency matters from the Washington appeals court. Roberts could act on the request by himself or refer it to the full nine-member Supreme Court.

Donald Trump inauguration
Donald Trump with his wife Melania and sons Barron and Donald Jr. being sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts in January 2017, with former House Speaker Paul Ryan behind them

The request didn’t lay out a proposed timeline for the president’s lawyers to file his appeal. The court could order a briefing schedule that would put the case on the same track as the appeal Trump filed Thursday in the New York case. That case is timed for high court action as early as December.

The latest request suggested that either Roberts or the full court could issue an administrative stay that would block the House committee while the justices considered the bid for a longer halt.

The committee’s acting chairwoman, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, said Trump should stop fighting the request.

“It has now been seven months since the Oversight Committee asked for these records,” Maloney said in a statement. “It is time for the president to let us do our job and stop blocking Mazars from complying with the committee’s lawful subpoena.”

In the New York case, Trump on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to hear his appeal, arguing that the president has broad immunity from criminal investigations while in office. Trump told the justices he is fighting a “politically motivated” subpoena that seeks “highly intrusive” records and could interfere with his work as president.

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to disguise hush payments to two women who claimed they had sex with him before he took office.

Greg Stohr
Bloomberg News