Appeals Court Panel to Trump: Release Your Tax Records
Oct 12 2019
"As the Court reads it, presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration", wrote U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in his October 7 ruling.
The court also ordered that the ruling's effects will be put on hold in order to give the president and his legal team the opportunity to appeal the decision.
'The most important question is not whether Congress has put forth some legitimate legislative goal, but rather whether Congress is investigating suspicions of criminality or allegations that the President violated a law, ' Rao wrote, declaring that the House of Representatives 'may not use the legislative power to circumvent the protections and accountability that accompany the impeachment power'.
The House panel subpoenaed records from Mazars in April, including documents from 2011 to 2018 in its investigation into Trump's reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest.
The Trump administration has consistently refused to comply with oversight efforts by Democrats in the House, most recently the formal impeachment inquiry launched in response to the president's attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a leading political rival.
Tatel, a Clinton appointee to the bench, said the Oversight Committee's subpoena for records from Mazars USA, the accounting firm, is valid and enforceable. Judge Naomi Rao, a Trump appointee, wrote a dissenting opinion.
The majority breaks new ground when it determines Congress is investigating allegations of illegal conduct against the President, yet nonetheless upholds the subpoena as part of the legislative power.
The case is one of several working its way through courts in which Trump is fighting with Congress over records.
Since clinching the presidency, Trump has argued that he can not disclose his returns, because he is being audited by the IRS - even though an audit does not prevent a taxpayer from releasing his or her own tax documents. Congress, she maintained, can only subpoena material from a president during an impeachment proceeding.
His attorneys Trump had argued that U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta should have reversed the subpoena. A judge in that case ruled this week the president's claim to immunity while in office was "repugnant". In New York, Trump sued to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capital One from complying with House subpoenas for banking and financial records.
"We detect no inherent constitutional flaw in laws requiring presidents to publicly disclose certain financial information".
In her dissent, Rao said the court's opinion blurred the "consistent line" between Congress' legislative powers and its impeachment powers.
The court cited a lengthy history of congressional investigators subpoenaing records necessary to government investigations - including a legal precedent established during the Watergate-era the court said "strongly implies" that US commanders in chief do not have "blanket immunity" from House or Senate subpoenas.
On Friday, those arguments seemed to resonate with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.