Federal Judge Rules Against Trump On Subpoena For Financial Records
Added 05-21-19 09:55:02am EST - “U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta has issued a? 41-page? opinion? in favor of the House Oversight Committee in its subpoena of the accounting firm Mazars USA to obtain financial d?” - Jonathanturley.org
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U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta has issued a 41-page opinion in favor of the House Oversight Committee in its subpoena of the accounting firm Mazars USA to obtain financial documents related to President Donald Trump. It is a significant victory for the Congress in its fights with the White House given the ambiguously stated legislative purpose behind the demand. However, as I testified last week before the House Judiciary Committee, Congress is likely to win such fights over legislative purpose and courts are unlikely to entertain challenges based on alleged improper or political motives by Congress.
As I testified last week, the current argument that Congress should be presumed to have an illegitimate or purely partisan motivation is, ironically, the same type of argument that the Trump Administration has been opposing in various courts. The Trump Administration argued that lower courts wrongly assigned a discriminatory intent in reviewing his travel ban. He also continues to argue that Congress is wrong to assume a “corrupt intent” on obstruction when non-criminal motivations were detailed in the Special Counsel Report. Yet, it is now asking the court to presume the same ill-motive in rejecting any legitimate purpose behind the exercise of oversight authority.
Judge Mehta dealt directly with the issue and came to the predicted result. The court ruled “The binding principle that emerges from these judicial decisions is that courts must presume Congress is acting in furtherance of its constitutional responsibility to legislate and must defer to congressional judgments about what Congress needs to carry out that purpose. To be sure, there are limits on Congress’s investigative authority. But those limits do not substantially constrain Congress.”
When I testified in the House Judiciary Committee there was a curious moment when Chairman Jerry Nadler asked the final question to Professor Neil Kinkopf. He stated that I have denied that the Committee could show any legitimate legislative purpose to investigate possible crimes or abuse by a sitting president and whether he agreed with me. Kinkopf responded that he vehemently disagreed with me and such a position is preposterous. As the Chairman was about to gavel an end to the hearing, I objected and asked for a chance to respond. The problem, I noted, is that my testimony stated that exact opposite as did my oral testimony over the last couple of hours. I expressly stated that Congress was likely to win on the legislative prong of the Wilkinson test. The Chair simply thanked me for the “clarification” and ended the meeting. As an academic, it was an unnerving exchange because we tend to be a tad sensitive about how our work is construed in the political melee of the Hill. That is the first time, however, that my testimony was portrayed as the complete inverse of what was submitted.
I actually like and respect Chairman Nadler a great deal and heralded his selection as Chair as a brilliant choice. I think that this was simply an ill-considered final question from staff.
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