Court sympathetic to House in records fight with Trump

William Consovoy

William Consovoy, President Donald Trump’s attorney, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, Friday, July 12, 2019. Attorneys for President Trump are making arguments before a federal appeals court in an effort to block Congress from obtaining some of his financial records. A lower court already ruled that the House’s subpoena of Trump financial records is a valid exercise of legislative power, but Trump’s attorneys have appealed. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court seemed inclined Friday to side with a House committee seeking some of President Donald Trump’s financial records as part of an investigation, a disclosure he is fighting.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard more than two hours of arguments in the case Friday, but the judges gave no indication when they would rule. It seemed that at least two of the judges were inclined to side with the Democratic-led House committee, which in April issued a subpoena for records from Mazars USA, which has provided accounting services to Trump. A lower court previously ordered the records turned over , but Trump called the decision “crazy” and his lawyers appealed.

The case is one of several working its way through courts in which Trump is fighting with Congress over records. Earlier this month, the House Ways and Means Committee sued the Trump administration over access to the president’s tax returns. And in a case in New York, Trump sued to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capital One from complying with House subpoenas for banking and financial records. A judge ruled against him, and Trump is appealing.

Trump has argued that House Committee on Oversight and Reform seeking the records from Mazars is out to get him and lacks a legitimate “legislative purpose” for its request. His lawyers have argued that congressional investigations are valid only if there is legislation that might result from them.

On Friday, Judge Patricia Millett told Trump lawyer William Consovoy at one point that he was suggesting that the president was “absolutely immune from any oversight.” And her colleague, Judge David Tatel, told Consovoy that what the House is seeking is “just financial disclosure which presidents for years have been doing.” Tatel was appointed by President Bill Clinton and Millett by President Barack Obama.

The third judge hearing the case, Trump appointee Neomi Rao, suggested some sympathy for the president’s position, expressing concern about whether the House as a whole had given the committee the authority to investigate the president. Rao asked House attorney Douglas Letter to point to a time when the House has investigated the president without a full vote, and she suggested the committee’s actions were “unprecedented.”

The Oversight committee, for its part, has said it is seeking the Trump financial statements, accounting records and other documents, which cover the years 2011 to 2018, as part of its investigation into whether the president has undisclosed conflicts of interests, whether he has accurately reported his finances and whether he may have engaged in illegal conduct before and during his time in office.

The committee says the House is considering legislation related to government conflicts of interest and presidential financial disclosures, among other things.


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