Congress

Supreme Court stops House subpoena for Trump financial records

Case could reshape limits for impeachment and other investigations into a sitting president

President Donald Trump’s lawyers have until Dec. 5 to file an appeal to stop enforcement of the House Democrats’ subpoena. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily stopped enforcement of a House committee subpoena, siding for now with President Donald Trump over Congress in a case that could reshape the limits for impeachment and other investigations into a sitting president.

A majority of the justices voted to grant Trump’s emergency request to put a hold on a lower court ruling that required accounting firm Mazars USA to comply with a House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial and tax records.

The one-page order freezes the status quo as the Supreme Court considers whether to hear an appeal from Trump’s personal lawyers to stop enforcement of the subpoena. It does not indicate how each justice voted.

The justices signaled they wanted to act quickly, and gave Trump’s lawyers until Dec. 5 to file an appeal. If the justices agree to hear the case, the freeze would remain until they rule, likely before the end of the current term at the end of June.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear Trump’s appeal, then House Democrats could move forward to enforce the subpoena.

House lawyers had urged the justices to allow enforcement of the subpoena right away, in part because of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Monday’s decision would appear to delay the subpoena until after the House Democrats’ aggressive timeline for moving forward with impeachment.

Trump’s personal lawyers argue that the committee did not have a legitimate legislative purpose to seek the records from before and after he took office. Trump filed the lawsuit to stop the subpoena to the accounting firm.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that Mazars must comply with the April 15 subpoena.

That majority found both the chamber rules and the Constitution — as well as prior court rulings — give the House broad authority to get records from a nongovernment custodian of the president’s financial information.

The committee has 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.

The committee, when urging the court to allow enforcement of the subpoena right away, said a president doesn’t have a right to stall the production of documents, particularly during an impeachment inquiry.

The case is Trump et al. v. Mazars USA et al., Docket No. 19A545.

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