Monday, 14 October, 2019

Trump accountant told by Court of Appeals to surrender tax records

Trump loses appeal to stop House subpoena of his tax documents Federal appeals court rejects Trump's bid to block House subpoena for his tax returns
Steven Clarke | 11 October, 2019, 21:40

In a 2-1 ruling, judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said House Democrats can enforce a subpoena for the documents.

"The Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena", the two-judge majority opinion stated.

The president could try to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He can either appeal this to the full DC Circuit for an en banc ruling, or he can take it to the Supreme Court - where the balance at least appears to favor him.

The case is one of several working its way through courts in which Mr Trump is fighting with Congress over records.

The court is expected to hear arguments in that case on October 23. It could also grant a hearing and press pause on the subpoena while the dispute winds its way toward a final resolution in 2020 - while Trump is in the thick of a re-election fight.

A federal judge in Manhattan had denied Trump's effort to block the subpoena.

And the president had sued the House committee in April, arguing unsuccessfully that investigating his personal finances from years predating his time in office goes beyond the constitutional powers of Congress. That probe was triggered by a whistle-blower's claim that Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and held back military aid Congress had appropriated to resist Russian influence in the region.

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Judge Tatel was appointed by President Bill Clinton. 'And that is precisely what the Framers intended'.

The decision goes on to say that "this subpoena is a valid exercise of the legislative oversight authority because it seeks information important to determining the fitness of legislation to address potential problems within the Executive Branch and the electoral system; it does not seek to determine the President's fitness for office".

Dissenting was Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, who said the court was expanding Congress's powers to a new point they'd never been before.

She wrote in her dissent that Congress can only get the tax records if it is officially engaged in an impeachment proceeding, something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not taken a vote to authorize. Allowing the Committee to issue this subpoena for legislative purposes would turn Congress into a roving inquisition over a co-equal branch of government.

"A congressional committee, as committees have done repeatedly over the past two centuries, issued an investigative subpoena, and the target of that subpoena, questioning the committee's legislative goal, has asked a court to invalidate it", the majority opinion states.

Lawyers for Trump immediately appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which issued a temporary stay of the judge's order. If the House wants to require presidents to disclose their tax returns while in office, their first step should be to propose that in legislation, or at least pretend that's the goal of the demand for evidence.

No law requires him to release the documents.

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