Supreme Court Schedules Date for Arguments in Trump Financial Records Cases

January 31, 2020 Updated: January 31, 2020
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The Supreme Court said on Friday that it will hear arguments in three disputes over subpoenas seeking access to President Donald Trump’s financial information on March 31 (pdf).

In December, the top court said they agreed to hear the three cases appealing lower court decisions that require Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA and two banks to comply with the subpoenas issued by the House and a New York district attorney in a grand jury probe. At that time, the court did not set a date for arguments.

The disputes dealing with the separation of power and absolute immunity concerns reached the Supreme Court after appellate judges upheld the subpoenas. Two of the cases stem from subpoenas that were issued earlier in the year by three House committees—Financial Services, Intelligence, and Oversight—as part of their probes over allegations of the president’s dealings. Meanwhile, the third case deals with a criminal investigation in Manhattan.

One of the cases centers on a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee to Mazars to hand over eight years of financial records involving Trump and his business in April as part of its probe into allegations about the president’s financial statements. Trump’s legal team subsequently filed a lawsuit to invalidate the subpoena and asked for an injunction over its enforcement.

In October, a lower court ruled that the committee had the authority to subpoena the records from the New York accounting firm, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Trump’s request in November to reconsider the lower court’s decision.

Similarly, the second House case involves subpoenas issued by the House Financial Services and House Intelligence committees in April to two banks—Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.—asking them to turn over Trump’s financial documents.

Trump then sued the two banks in April in an effort to stop them from complying with the subpoenas, arguing that the House subpoenas were unlawful and unconstitutional. But, in May, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that subpoenas have “a legitimate legislative purpose” and could be enforced.

Ramos’s ruling prompted Trump to file an appeal in August to the Second Circuit Court. But the court ruled on Dec. 3 that the banks must comply with the subpoenas.

Meanwhile, in the Manhattan grand jury case, District Attorney of New York County Cyrus Vance Jr. issued a subpoena to Mazars requesting Trump’s financial records in connection with a criminal case. Vance is investigating alleged hush money reportedly paid to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign—adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the affairs and any other wrongdoing. Trump sued Vance in September in an attempt to block the subpoena. The district court denied Trump’s application for an injunction over the subpoena and dismissed the case in October, prompting the president’s lawyers to file an appeal.

In early November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision to deny Trump injunctive relief. The president’s legal team appealed to the Supreme Court on Nov. 14, arguing in their petition (pdf) that the lower courts had incorrectly ruled on the issue of immunity.

Earlier this week, Trump’s legal team filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to block the subpoenas. In one of the briefs (pdf), the lawyers argued that although House committees are claiming that they are seeking the records for a legislative purpose, they are instead engaging in law enforcement.

“These Committees are not legislating; they are avowedly engaging in law enforcement. All of them—to one degree or another—have acknowledged that the purpose of the investigations is to determine whether the President engaged in wrongdoing,” the lawyers state in the brief. “The events that led to the subpoenas’ issuance, the public statements surrounding these investigations, the nature of these demands themselves, and other evidence confirm that the Committees’ purpose is to find out if the President broke the law.”

Similarly, in the Manhattan case, Trump’s attorneys argued in a separate brief (pdf) that the president is immune from requests to hand over his financial records to the criminal prosecutor while he is in office, and that the only way to prosecute a sitting president as provided by the Constitution is through impeachment.

Along with setting the argument dates for the Trump financial records cases, the Supreme Court also scheduled other cases for their March argument calendar (pdf). The Supreme Court will hear arguments for a copyright case, Google v. Oracle, on March 24 and two religious school employment discrimination cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, on April 1.

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