Supreme Court puts hold on House subpoena for Trump financial records
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday put a temporary hold on a House subpoena for President Donald Trump's financial records spanning eight years.
The House Government Oversight committee subpoenaed the material in April. The committee acted after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified that "Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."
House Democrats said they needed the documents to investigate whether the president accurately filled out required financial disclosure forms.
Lawyers for the president tried to have the subpoena thrown out, but they lost in the lower courts. A court order upholding the subpoena, and requiring the accounting firm to begin turning over the Trump documents, was to take effect on Wednesday.
Last Friday, Trump lawyers asked the Supreme Court to put the subpoena on hold while they pursue an appeal. On Monday, the court agreed. In a two-sentence order, the court said the House must respond by 3 p.m. Thursday.
The court's action, known as an administrative stay, does not indicate how the court might rule on the legal merits of the dispute. It simply stops the clock to give the lawyers time to file their papers.
Trump's lawyers have argued that if the subpoena is upheld, any committee of Congress could seek any personal information it wants from a president. "Given the temptation to dig up dirt on political rivals, intrusive subpoenas into personal lives of presidents will become our new normal in times of divided government — no matter which party is in power."
Lawyers for the House said the subpoena presents no threat to the president's ability to carry out his duties, because it is directed at his accountants and does not require him to do anything.
The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked a ruling that requires President Donald Trump’s longtime accounting firm to turn over his tax returns to Congress.
The temporary stay order signed by Chief Justice John Roberts gives the Democratic-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Reform until Thursday to respond. The document did not note any public votes or dissents.
Earlier in the day, attorneys for House Democrats said in a letter that they would not oppose a temporary delay in enforcing the subpoena to allow the court time to consider arguments from both sides. The committee said in the letter that it would provide its response on Friday.
A spokesperson for the committee did not immediately provide comment after the chief justice’s order. The justices are scheduled to meet in a private conference on Friday.
The president has gone to great lengths to keep his tax returns secret as two efforts to procure them work their way through the legal system. Trump broke with decades of precedent when he did not release the records while running for president in 2016.
Trump has provided conflicting explanations for his refusal to release his tax returns. In court papers, his attorneys say that requiring their disclosure would set a precedent that could weaken the presidency, counter to the Constitution’s separation of powers among the branches.
The Oversight Committee has said it needs the president’s returns in order to address whether it should update ethics-in-government legislation.
Trump’s attorneys submitted a petition last week to the justices in a separate case involving his tax returns. In that case, the president is seeking to overturn the ruling of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requiring Trump’s accountants to provide his returns to the Manhattan district attorney. The justices have not yet said whether they will consider that appeal.
If they decline to do so, it will effectively mandate that the accounting firm provide the tax returns. The firm, Mazars USA, has said it will provide the returns if legally required.
Trump’s push to block release of his tax returns come less than a year before the November 2020 election, when Trump aims to earn another term in the White House.
House Democrats are moving forward with an impeachment probe into whether Trump abused his power and tried to influence the 2020 election by urging Ukraine to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden. They have looked into whether he tied a Biden probe to the release of U.S. military aid or a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
The case is Donald Trump v. Mazars USA.
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