A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling after Trump filed an appeal in August after a district judge in New York declined to block subpoenas issued by two congressional committees.
Judge Jon Newman, 87, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, said the appeal “raises an important issue concerning the investigative authority” of the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees.
The case doesn’t concern a dispute between the Legislative and Executive branches of the government, Newman said, because the documents Congress is seeking have to do with Trump acting in his personal capacity. The ruling said Trump’s case didn’t meet the standard for a preliminary injunction, though they did establish that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury if the financial records were released to Congress.
Trump’s lawyers said that the subpoenas are invalid because of the Right to Financial Privacy Act, which prohibits financial institutions from disclosing a customer’s financial records to “any government authority,” but the congressional committees have claimed that they are not a “government authority.” The judges agreed with that claim.
Trump’s team also said that Congress didn’t meet Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, which makes tax returns confidential with several exceptions. Congress didn’t dispute the claim but contended the provision didn’t apply to tax returns held by Deutsche Bank if the bank didn’t get the returns from the IRS. The ruling said the section was ambiguous but said that Congress appeared to be correct. If tax returns of Trump himself were held by the bank, then the information might be legally held back, but the bank said on Aug. 27 the returns it has don’t include the president’s.
While the subpoenas were broad, the ruling stated Congress can inquire into private affairs if they’re related to a valid legislative purpose. The records the panels are seeking are from 2010 to 2016. The valid legislative purpose includes investigating the movement of illicit funds through the global financial system, the ruling stated, quoting Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
The ruling ordered the banks to disclose most of the requested information. One exception was some of the checks that Congress sought because they might contain sensitive personal information not related to the inquiry.
The order was stayed for seven days so that Trump’s lawyers could apply to the Supreme Court for an extension of the stay.
President George W. Bush nominees Judge Peter Hall and Judge Debra Ann Livingston joined in the opinion.
Livingston said in a partial dissent that the case should be returned to a lower court for “creation of a record that is sufficient more closely to examine the serious questions that the plaintiffs have raised” and wants the parties to go “back to the negotiating table” to try to narrow the scope of the subpoenas.
The committees, she said, “affirmed a willingness to negotiate on an expedited basis” in oral arguments “if requested by this court.”