A district judge on Monday upheld a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for President Trump's financial records, dealing a blow to White House efforts to resist the Democrats’ investigations.
In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, found that the panel, under the leadership of Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Manchin says no; White House fires back House Democrats find drug companies 'unjustified' in price hikes Your must-read holiday book list from members of Congress MORE (D-Md.), had valid reasons for requesting the president’s financial records from the accounting firm Mazars, even though they predated his entering office.
"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.
The ruling comes just hours after the White House ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee for his testimony at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Trump’s lawyers will also be in federal court in New York to try and quash similar subpoenas issued by other House Democrats for financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One.
Mehta’s order against Trump also underscores the difficult legal battle the president has waged by suing to block the subpoenas. Legal experts have told The Hill that it’s unlikely Trump’s legal reasoning will hold up in court, but that the lawsuits could be an attempt to at least delay lawmakers from getting their hands on the documents.
The judge was skeptical of the arguments brought forward by the president’s attorneys both in court last week and in his opinion issued Monday.
Trump's attorneys had argued that the subpoena, issued by Cummings earlier this year, was unconstitutional because it wasn't tied to legislation. But attorneys for the House said that the records will help strengthen ethics and disclosure laws and see if Trump is in compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
And they said that Congress has a broad authority to investigate, particularly under the scope of the Oversight panel.
Mehta sided with that argument in his ruling Monday. He noted that the panel's "broad investigative power is not new," pointing to investigations conducted by the committee while it was under Republican control.
And he found that “it is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations,” as the president’s attorneys have argued.
The judge similarly rejected Trump’s claim that examining his conduct before entering office went beyond lawmakers’ authorities and was a form of “law enforcement.”
“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,” he wrote.
Cummings in a statement called the ruling "a resounding victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system of checks and balances."
"Congress must have access to the information we need to do our job effectively and efficiently, and we urge the President to stop engaging in this unprecedented cover-up and start complying with the law," the Oversight chairman said.
Mehta also denied a request from Trump lawyer William Consovoy that he issue a stay on the ruling while they appeal the decision to a higher court, meaning that the House Democrats could quickly obtain the president's financial records if Mazars complies with the request before an appeals court potentially intervenes.
“The court is well aware that this case involves records concerning the private and business affairs of the President of the United States,” Mehta wrote. “But 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.”
The judge stated in his opinion that both parties of the lawsuit have agreed to a seven-day waiting period after any ruling before Mazars releases any documents. The president's attorneys have indicated that they will appeal any ruling not in their favor.
Mazars has largely remained out of the legal battle, claiming that it is solely an issue between the president and Democrats in Congress.
A Mazars spokeswoman on Monday pointed The Hill to the firm’s most recent statement, in which it said it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”