Trump urges appeals court to reverse House access to accounting records

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President Donald Trump’s personal lawyers told a U.S. appeals court it must reverse a judge’s ruling allowing the House Oversight and Reform Committee to subpoena financial records from his accounting firm because lawmakers lack a legitimate legislative purpose to see them.

Trump’s attorneys made the argument in a filing Monday as they fight to overturn the May 20 Washington federal court ruling that gave the Democrat-led panel access to the president’s personal and business records going back to 2011. The committee had issued a subpoena for the records to Trump’s longtime accountant, Mazars USA LLP.

“The separation of powers implications of this appeal are profound,” the president’s lawyers said in the filing. They said the lawmakers are trying to exercise enforcement powers that are reserved for the executive branch. Any justification for seeking the records, including stronger conflict-of-interest laws and financial-disclosure requirements, is unconstitutional, they wrote.

Congress can’t interfere with the president’s constitutionally created powers or his “responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Trump’s lawyers said. “The species of legislation that the committee has in mind here would do both.''

The Washington lawsuit is one of three pending legal battles between Trump and Democrats, who won control of Congress’s lower chamber in the November elections.

The president is also seeking to reverse a New York federal court ruling giving two other committees access to his records at Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.

House Democrats are appealing a Washington federal judge’s rejection of their request for an injunction to halt the re-purposing of more than $6 billion for construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border after both chambers denied the president’s request for the funding.

In the Mazars case, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a 2014 nominee of President Barack Obama, agreed with the House Democrats’ claim that they were lawfully entitled to the information. “There are limits on Congress’s investigative authority,” Mehta said. “But those limits do not substantially constrain Congress.”

At a May 14 hearing, Trump’s attorney William Consovoy had argued that congressional checks on the president were limited, which means oversight powers and enforcement of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses must be closely tied to a legislative function.

Having lost that battle, the president quickly appealed and both sides agreed to an accelerated appeals court resolution. The lawmakers must file their opposition brief on or by July 1. The as yet unnamed three-judge D.C. Circuit panel is scheduled to hear arguments on July 12.

The case is Trump v. Mazars USA LLP, 19-5142, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).

Bloomberg News
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