Judge orders accounting firm to give House panel some of Trump’s tax records
A federal judge on Wednesday narrowed a House subpoena for former President Trump’s personal financial records, ruling that the congressional inquiry was overly intrusive but may proceed with a more limited scope.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta upheld the subpoena to the extent that it sought information about Trump’s lease with the General Services Administration (GSA) for his D.C. hotel property and whether he violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses.
He ordered Trump’s accounting firm Mazars to hand over two years’ worth of tax and financial records for the former president and his business to Congress.
But Mehta, who was appointed by former President Obama to federal district court in D.C., threw out the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s effort to obtain a broad swath of Trump’s personal financial records, saying that the lawmakers’ rationale of seeking to bolster presidential disclosure laws does not justify the constitutional concerns posed by the subpoena.
“Such limited legislative need cannot justify the degree to which the Maloney Subpoena imposes on the separation of powers, even in the case of a former President,” Mehta wrote.
The judge added, “The more Congress can invade the personal sphere of a former President, the greater the leverage Congress would have on a sitting President.”
The decision can be appealed by either party.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said on Wednesday that Trump’s financial interests were an “unprecedented federal ethics crisis” and that the documents would better help lawmakers understand how to oversee the executive branch.
“I am pleased that the Court found that the Committee is entitled to eight years of financial information from Mazars related to President Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Old Post Office Hotel, as well as a broader set of information from the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency,” Maloney said in a statement. “While it is disappointing that the Court, despite finding that the entire subpoena served valid legislative purposes, narrowed the subpoena in some respects, the Committee is actively considering next steps.”
An attorney representing Trump was not immediately able to comment.
The ruling comes more than a year after the Supreme Court had waded into the case, overruling early victories for the House in the lower courts and advising judges to more cautiously balance the interests of the executive and legislative branches.
While Trump has since left office, Mehta said in his 53-page decision that he still has some protections from congressional inquiries under the Supreme Court’s Mazars decision.
“Although the Committee’s explanation might validate the Maloney Subpoena were it directed at the personal papers of an ordinary citizen, this case is different,” the judge wrote.
But Mehta ruled that Trump’s lease with the GSA for his Trump International Hotel in D.C. is fair game for congressional oversight, and his decision to contract with the federal government before, during and after his time in office leaves him without the protections that might otherwise be afforded to a former president in a congressional investigation.
“By freely contracting with GSA for his own private economic gain, and by not divesting upon taking office, President Trump opened himself up to potential scrutiny from the very Committee whose jurisdiction includes the ‘management of government operations and activities, including Federal procurement,'” Mehta wrote.
Trump’s ownership of the hotel has been under scrutiny for years, with critics and Democratic lawmakers saying it was a flagrant conflict of interest and possibly unconstitutional for the president to run a business frequented by corporate executives and foreign diplomats.
–Updated at 3:41 p.m.