A federal judge has upheld a congressional subpoena seeking President Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm, dealing a blow to the president’s efforts to resist Democratic investigations.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s ruling means that Trump’s accounting firm must comply with the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial records, though the president is certain to appeal the ruling.
The president filed suit last month to block the subpoena, arguing that it amounted to an abuse of congressional authority.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued the subpoena to Mazars last month as part of the panel’s investigation into whether Trump committed financial crimes before he became president.
In particular, the committee has sought to corroborate specific claims made by Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.
Earlier this year, Cohen turned over documents to the panel which purport to show that Trump artificially inflated and deflated the values of his assets to suit his personal financial benefit.
For example, Cohen told lawmakers that Trump submitted false financial statements to Deutsche Bank in 2014 as he was seeking a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills NFL team.
Mehta’s ruling represented the first time the federal judiciary has weighed in on the ongoing oversight battle between Trump and House Democrats.
His ruling is likely to provide a blueprint for other judges who are set to make their own rulings on Trump’s vow to defy all congressional subpoenas.
Mehta heard arguments from Trump attorney William Consovoy and House General Counsel Douglas Letter last week, during which he cast serious doubt on Consovoy’s legal arguments.
Consovoy contended that Congress has no legitimate authority to investigate whether the president violated the law, because such probes are handled by “law enforcement” entities and aren’t tied to a specific legislative remedy.
But Mehta pushed back strongly on Consovoy, stating those types of investigations are “strictly” within Congress’ purview.
He also said Congress has authority to investigate conflicts of interest — for example, whether a president has a “financial interest in a particular piece of legislation that was being considered.”
In addition to the Mazars suit, Trump has asked a federal court to invalidate the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees’ subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One.
Those subpoenas also seek Trump’s personal and business financial records, as part of a joint investigation centering on whether Trump is compromised, financially or otherwise, by foreign actors.
Trump and his GOP allies have argued that the Democrats’ probes are illegitimate and amount to an abuse of power.