In a landmark move, a federal judge has ruled that the firm that handled Donald Trump’s finances before he became president must hand over the records under the subpoena issued by a Democrat-controlled House committee.
US District Court Judge Amit Mehta has sided with the House Oversight Committee in ruling that a subpoena it issued for Trump’s financial records is in line with the law. In his opinion, Mehta pointed to “broad investigative power” with which the committee is endowed while refusing to speculate whether the Democrat-driven hunt for Trump’s records is politically motivated.
“These are facially valid legislative purposes, and it is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations,” Mehta wrote.
Trump, who earlier vowed to fight all legal challenges by Democrats against his businesses, associates or former and current staffers, has insisted that the subpoena filed last month by the committee’s chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) constituted legislative overreach, as it sought information dating back to 2011, long before Trump expressed his intent to run for office.
The president’s lawyers attempted to quash the subpoena, arguing that its sole purpose was to dig up personal information on Trump to smear him. Trump himself earlier stated that the Democrats would use the subpoena to “turn up something” to cast a shadow over his 2020 reelection bid.
In his ruling, the Obama-appointed Mehta argued that while “courts have grappled for more than a century with the question of the scope of Congress’s investigative power” so long as it “investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,'” it has virtually unlimited powers.
To be sure, there are limits on Congress’s investigative authority. But those limits do not substantially constrain Congress,” he wrote.
In addition to giving the green light to the House’s legislative onslaught on Trump, Mehta has refused to grant a stay on his ruling as requested by Trump’s lawyers. Trump’s legal team had asked the judge to give them time to lodge an appeal on the decision. With Mehta refusing to do so, the accounting firm, Mazars LLP, will have to provide the requested documents as soon as the ruling takes effect.
“On the question of whether to grant a stay pending appeal, the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail,” Mehta wrote.
Trump has remained defiant despite the setback, telling reporters on Monday that he would appeal the decision.