Court Battles

DOJ tells Supreme Court that subpoenas for Trump’s finances are unconstitutional

The Department of Justice is arguing in filings to the Supreme Court that the multiple subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records are unconstitutional.

The solicitor general’s office is siding with the president in his appeal of lower court rulings upholding subpoenas issued by House committees and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The Justice Department argued that the Constitution prohibits local law enforcement from investigating the president and that Congress must overcome high hurdles when seeking information from him.

“These cases involve the first attempts by congressional committees to demand the personal records of a sitting President of the United States,” the Justice Department said in one of the filings, submitted Tuesday. “That use of their limited and implied investigatory powers poses a serious risk of harassing the President and distracting him from his constitutional duties.”

The administration made a similar argument against the Manhattan DA’s subpoena in a filing submitted Monday.

“State grand-jury subpoenas for a sitting President’s personal records pose serious risks to the independent functioning of the Office of the President,” the department wrote. “State prosecutors could use such subpoenas to harass the President in retaliation for the President’s official policies. Such subpoenas could also subject the President to significant burdens, threatening to divert the President’s time and energy from his singularly important public duties.”

In April of last year, the House Oversight and Reform Committee issued a subpoena for the president’s personal financial records to his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and the House Intelligence and House Financial Services committees issued wide-ranging subpoenas for personal and business records to Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

The committees cited investigations into Russian interference in U.S. elections and money laundering.

That same month, Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, issued a subpoena to Mazars for the tax returns and other financial records.

The D.C. and 2nd Circuit courts of appeals ruled last year that Trump’s accounting firm and bank would have to comply with the subpoenas. Trump’s personal legal team appealed the rulings, arguing that the president has broad immunity to subpoenas and even law enforcement investigation.

In the cases over the House subpoenas, the Justice Department argued that the committees failed to identify legitimate legislative needs to justify the demands for the highly personal information.

“Together, those documents encompass a constellation of transactions that would permit the committees to reconstruct in detail the President’s financial history with those institutions—including fund transfers, deposits, withdrawals, investments, loans, mortgages, and lines of credits,” the Justice Department wrote.

“To be sure, congressional committees ordinarily have considerable latitude about which private transactions and events to examine,” the department’s filing added. “But committees investigating far-reaching public problems, such as money laundering, do not properly exercise that discretion by making the President the primary target of their inquiries.”

Both cases will be argued before the Supreme Court on March 31.

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