AP NEWS

Trump appeals after judge sides with Democrats in document battle

May 21, 2019

President Trump filed an appeal Tuesday asking the circuit court in Washington to overrule a judge who said he cannot block House Democrats from obtaining his financial records from one of his accounting firms.

The president and his business empire said District Judge Judge Amit P. Mehta bungled both the procedures and the decision itself in his Monday opinion.

Judge Mehta ruled that Congress has wide latitude to pursue investigations, and the president cannot decide which ones are legitimate.

Mr. Trump’s appeal, which had been expected, will be heard by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

At issue are the president’s financial records held by one of his accounting firms, Mazars USA LLP.

Democrats went after the documents after hearing testimony from Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer for years, who said Mr. Trump routinely manipulated the value of his assets and liabilities on financial statements, depending on what his goals were. For example, Cohen said, he would inflate estimates to obtain loans, but would deflate assets’ value to calculate real estate taxes.

Mr. Trump’s team said the Oversight Committee’s probe was illegitimate because it didn’t serve a valid legislative purpose. Under longstanding court precedent, Congress has broad investigative powers but they aren’t unlimited, and must be tethered to Congress’s ability to write laws.

The Oversight Committee said it wants to look at the records so it can see if financial disclosure and ethics laws are working.

Judge Mehta, an Obama appointee to the bench, said that’s good enough.

“To be sure, there are limits on Congress’s investigative authority. But those limits do not substantially constrain Congress,” he wrote. “So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,’ Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution.”

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