President Donald Trump lost an appeal to stop a House congressional subpoena of his tax documents.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges rejected arguments made by lawyers for the president that the House Oversight and Reform Committee had no legitimate legislative reason to seek the information. His lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that Congress had no legitimate legislative objective for getting the materials.
Trump then appealed that ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
"Because the Mazars subpoena attempts to criminally investigate a sitting president, it is unconstitutional", court papers argued. The court is expected to hear arguments in the case on October 23.
One of the two judges who issued the majority opinion was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, the other by former President Barack Obama.
In this case, let's start with the dissent. The House has not invoked its impeachment power for the subpoena even though it is investigating whether Trump broke the law, she wrote.
"When Congress seeks information about the President's wrongdoing, it does not matter whether the investigation also has a legislative objective", Rao continued.
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. Throughout our history, Congress, the President, and the courts have insisted upon maintaining the separation between the legislative and impeachment powers of the House and recognized the gravity and accountability that follow impeachment.
'The most important question is not whether Congress has put forth some legitimate legislative objective, but rather whether Congress is investigating suspicions of criminality or allegations that the President violated a law, ' Rao wrote, declaring that the House of Representatives 'may not use the legislative power to circumvent the protections and accountability that accompany the impeachment power'.
Instead, the majority found that both the House rules and the Constitution - as well as prior court rulings - give the House broad authority to get records from a nongovernment custodian of the president's financial information. And that is enough. Eastland, 421 U.S.at 508.
Separately, House committees are seeking to obtain Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank AG DBKGn.DE and Capital One Financial Corp COF.N . The president's lawyers, hired specifically to help keep his tax returns hidden, sued to block enforcement of the subpoena, arguing that Congress lacks the legal authority to scrutinize alleged presidential misdeeds. "It does not seek to determine the President's fitness for office".