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Federal court rules Trump must comply with House subpoena for tax returns

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, historically known as District of Columbia City Hall and District of Columbia Courthouse, located at 451 Indiana Avenue, N.W., in the Judiciary Square neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons)
October 11, 2019

President Trump’s accounting firm must fulfill a subpoena and turn over eight years of tax returns, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

A three-panel judge with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted 2-1 that the House Oversight and Reform Committee has the authority “under both the House rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena” to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, and the firm “must comply” with the subpoena, NBC News reported.

“Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,” the court said on Friday, adding, “disputes between Congress and the president are a recurring plot in our national story.”

The two judges who voted in the committee’s favor were Judge David Tatel, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Patricia Millett, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

The judge who dissented, Judge Neomi Rao, was appointed by Trump and argued that the House overstepped its authority to issue the subpoena.

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“The Constitution and our historical practice draw a consistent line between the legislative and judicial powers of Congress,” Rao wrote. “The majority crosses this boundary for the first time by upholding this subpoena investigating the illegal conduct of the President under the legislative power.”

A seven-day hold is now in effect on the ruling, allowing Trump’s legal team sufficient time to appeal. The ruling can be fought in a “full appeals court or by going directly to the Supreme Court,” NBC noted.

“While we are reviewing the court’s lengthy decision, as well as Judge Rao’s dissent, we continue to believe that this subpoena is not a legitimate exercise of Congress’s legislative authority,” Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow told NBC News.

The subpoena was issued to Mazars USA a little more than a month ago for the past eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to the present.

The House committee said the tax returns are necessary for their investigation into the accuracy of Trump’s financial disclosure forms after his former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified that Trump “inflated his assets when it served his purposes” and underrepresented them in other instances.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, said the allegations “raise grave questions about whether the President has been accurate in his financial reporting.”

Trump’s legal team had quickly appealed a previous ruling on Monday by a Manhattan-based federal court, which had decided that Trump does not have presidential immunity from investigations or judicial actions.