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

"Disputes between Congress and the President are a recurring plot."

October 11, 2019, 1:20 PM

The federal circuit of appeals in Washington, D.C., has affirmed a lower court order rejecting legal challenges from President Donald Trump's legal team to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee regarding the president's financial records from Mazars, an accounting firm the Trump family has used for years.

In the lengthy decision, the circuit court writes, "The fact that every President during the last four decades has filed financial disclosures offers persuasive evidence."

The decision goes on to say that "this subpoena is a valid exercise of the legislative oversight authority because it seeks information important to determining the fitness of legislation to address potential problems within the Executive Branch and the electoral system; it does not seek to determine the President's fitness for office."

During oral arguments this past summer, one of Trump's attorneys, William Consovoy, said that the committee had overstepped its constitutional powers.

"Where there are constitutional doubts?" Consovoy said at the time. "The committee's power should be narrow."

Consovoy said the president has a "hard line in pen" drawn around him protecting him from certain inquires.

The fact that the subpoena in this case seeks information that concerns the President of the United States adds a twist, but not a surprising one.

House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has accused the president of "unprecedented stonewalling" as he continues to fight this and other subpoenas issued by the House.

Trump's lead counsel, Jay Sekulow, tells ABC News the team is "evaluating their options." Considering this was the first appeal of the matter, the only legal remedy left would be going to the Supreme Court.

"While we are reviewing the court’s lengthy decision, as well as Judge Rao's dissent, we continue to believe that this subpoena is not a legitimate exercise of Congress’s legislative authority," Sekulow said in a statement to ABC News.

As part of the ruling by the three judge panel Friday, the jurists write: "The fact that the subpoena in this case seeks information that concerns the President of the United States adds a twist, but not a surprising one: disputes between Congress and the President are a recurring plot in our national story. And that is precisely what the Framers intended."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision "a resounding victory for the rule of law, our Constitution and its system of checks and balances" in a statement.

"It is a victory for our democracy, as the courts reaffirm the Congress's authority and responsibility to conduct oversight and consider legislation on behalf of the American people," she said.

The ruling in D.C. comes at the end of a week that began with another ruling lost by Trump's team regarding his financial information. On Monday, Trump lost his bid to shield his tax returns from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which subpoenaed them as part of an investigation into "hush payments" to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

In that case, Trump's legal team filed an immediate notice of appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the 2nd Circuit at least temporarily agreed to block the president's accounting firm from immediately having to hand over the requested tax returns in an emergency administrative stay.

Trump has kept aspects of his financials more under wraps than have previous presidents. He's the first president in over 40 years not to release his tax returns.

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