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Democrats seek quick subpoena ruling in Trump tax records case

Case puts Supreme Court in middle of fight over limits for investigations into a sitting president

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly allow enforcement of a congressional subpoena for eight years of President Donald Trump’s financial and tax records from accounting firm Mazars USA.

In a court filing, Democrats argue that not only was a lower court ruling correct when it backed House power to get the records, but also that a president doesn’t have a right to stall the production of documents, particularly during an impeachment inquiry.

“The President certainly has no right to dictate the timetable by which third parties provide information that could potentially be relevant to that inquiry, or to enlist this Court’s aid in doing so on the basis of arguments that have been rejected by each court to have considered them,” the House filing states.

The case puts the Supreme Court in the middle of a fight over the limits for investigations into a sitting president, and injects the justices into a major separation-of-powers dispute over congressional power to enforce subpoenas during impeachment or other oversight probes.

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The House filing Thursday means the Supreme Court could act at any time on a request from Trump’s attorneys to halt enforcement of the subpoena from House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Trump’s lawyers want to prevent release of the records to lawmakers while they ask the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that ordered Mazars to comply with the subpoena.

The committee had argued it has legitimate interests in investigating the accuracy of Trump’s financial disclosures and the lease of the Old Post Office Building as the site of the Trump International Hotel, as well as possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments.

Trump will need the votes of five of the nine justices to put a hold on the D.C. Circuit ruling that backed Congress. There are five justices in the conservative wing of the Supreme Court.

[Trump’s fight against subpoenas reaches Supreme Court]

If the justices do pause the ruling, it is likely the Supreme Court will agree to decide either the state or congressional cases and rule by the end of the term at the end of June.

House Democrats, in the filing Thursday, wrote that if the justices decide to pause enforcement of the subpoena that they set a quick schedule so that it can be decided this term.

If the Supreme Court don’t pause the subpoena, the House could get Mazars to comply and it would be a bad sign for Trump’s prospects in a separate case about a state grand jury subpoena from New York.

Trump’s attorneys also have asked the Supreme Court to reverse an order from a federal appeals court in New York that requires Mazars to comply with a state subpoena for Trump’s financial and tax records.

Trump’s petition argues that the state subpoena — the first time in history that a state or local prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation of a U.S. president — is “almost a word-for-word copy” of subpoenas issued by committees of Congress for these same papers.

In both cases, Trump took legal action to stop the companies from turning over the records to the grand jury or House Democrats.

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