Federal Court Deals Another Blow To Trump’s Efforts To Keep Tax Records Private
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt President Trump another setback in his effort to keep his financial records out of Congressional hands.
Yet another Federal Court has dealt a blow to Donald Trump’s efforts to keep his tax returns a secret, with the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denying an effort by the President’s attorneys to overturn a previous ruling against their client:
Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s tax records, according to a federal appeals court order Wednesday that moves the separation-of-powers conflict one step closer to the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit let stand an earlier ruling against the president that affirmed Congress’s investigative authority on a day when the House was holding its first public impeachment inquiry hearing. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said in response to Wednesday’s decision that the president’s legal team “will be seeking review at the Supreme Court.”
The D.C. Circuit was responding to Trump’s request to have a full panel of judges rehear a three-judge decision from October that rejected the president’s request to block lawmakers from subpoenaing his longtime accounting firm.
A majority of the court’s 11 active judges voted against revisiting the case. Three judges — Neomi Rao, Gregory Katsas and Karen LeCraft Henderson — indicated that they would have granted the rehearing and published dissenting statements. Rao and Katsas, both former Trump administration officials, were nominated to the bench by the president.
“This case presents exceptionally important questions regarding the separation of powers,” Katsas wrote.
He warned of the “threat to presidential autonomy and independence” and said it would be “open season on the President’s personal records” if Congress is allowed to compel the president to disclose personal records based on the possibility that it might inform legislation.
The court’s order does not mean Trump’s tax records will be turned over to Congress immediately. The D.C. Circuit previously said it would put any ruling against the president on hold for seven days to give Trump’s attorneys time to ask the Supreme Court to step in.
The D.C. Circuit case centers on a House Oversight Committee subpoena from March for the president’s accounting firm records — issued months before the beginning of its impeachment inquiry, related to Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.
The request for information followed testimony from Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen that Trump had exaggerated his wealth when he sought loans. Lawmakers are investigating potential conflicts of interest, including the accuracy of the president’s financial disclosures.
A divided three-judge panel of the court held in October that the House had issued its subpoena for “legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose,” as the president’s lawyers had argued.
“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” wrote Judge David S. Tatel, who was joined by Judge Patricia A. Millett. Both were nominated by Democratic presidents.
Rao, the dissenting judge on the panel, restated her view that the committee had exceeded its authority with a legislative subpoena “investigating whether the President broke the law.”
“By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment,” she wrote.
As noted, this week’s ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was not a ruling on the merits. Instead, it was a ruling from the full Court of Appeals on a petition that the President’s lawyers had filed seeking an en banc review of the decision issued by in early October by a three-judge panel upholding U.S. District Court Judge Amal Mehta’s ruling in favor of the House Oversight Committee in its effort to obtain financial records from the accounting firm that has worked with Trump and his companies for decades. +
This is just the latest in a series of defeats that the Administration has suffered in the Federal Courts regarding requests for documents. In addition to Judge Mehta’s opinion in May, the President was also on the losing side of a ruling out of the Federal Court in New York City dealing with a request for documents regarding Trump’s finances from Deutsche Bank. Early in October, the President lost a legal effort in New York City attempting to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining copies of the President’s tax returns. Finally, just days later the D.C. Circuit handed down the opinion that is the subject of the ruling issued by the full Circuit Court. To date, there has not been a case where the Administration has succeeded in quashing a Congressional subpoena or document request.
As noted, Trump’s lawyers are already saying that they will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court, and the Circuit Court has already ruled that the panel and District Court rulings will remain on hold pending a ruling from the Supreme Court. If the Court takes up the matter, it’s like that it won’t be before June that we get a ruling on the matter. Even then, though, it’s likely that the documents won’t be made public, if ever, until the middle of next year.
Here’s the Court’s ruling on en banc hearing: