President Donald Trump is taking the fight to keep his financial records secret from congressional investigators to the Supreme Court. However, there is no guarantee it will pick up the case and it could take months before any decisions are made, legal scholars say.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit knocked back Trump’s appeal against the court’s earlier decision that his accountants Mazars must release several years of his financial records, including tax returns, to honor a subpoena by the House Oversight Committee.
A majority of the judges voted in favor of upholding the previous ruling. But three judges dissented against that majority decision. The president’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said he would now take the case up to the Supreme Court and petition for it to be heard there.
“Sekulow and Trump’s other private lawyers will have 90 days in which to file a petition for cert,” Larry Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard, told Newsweek.
“The Supreme Court typically takes several months to decide whether to grant or deny cert. In this case, I see very little reason to imagine the Court would want to grant a hearing, despite the dissents. But the exact timing and precise odds are anybody’s guess.”
Linda Greenhouse, a lecturer at Yale Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court who has covered the institution as a journalist for more than four decades, said Sekulow could expedite the case by filing the petition quickly. The other side then has 30 days to respond.
“It’s then possible that the Court could take the case to conference and grant it in time to hear and decide it before the term ends in June,” Greenhouse told Newsweek.
“But in no way is a grant automatic. The Court may well have no appetite to get into any of these Trump-related cases, given that the Chief Justice will soon be presiding over a Senate impeachment trial.”
If the Supreme Court does not grant the case, then the D.C. Circuit opinion would be the last word at that point. “But I wouldn’t be too conclusive about what happens next,” Greenhouse told Newsweek. “There may be some additional procedural moves available to the Trump team. It’s not over until it’s over.”
The president is fighting to keep his financial records private and out of the hands of the multiple congressional committees investigating him.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has subpoenaed the accountancy firm Mazars for eight years of Trump’s financial records, including tax returns, relating to his businesses.
The committee is investigating an allegation made by Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen that the president fraudulently inflated and deflated the value of his assets for tax and insurance purposes. Trump denies any wrongdoing.
When Mazars said it would comply with the subpoena, Trump opened a lawsuit against his accountants and the oversight committee. His lawyers argued that Congress was overreaching on its constitutional powers in seeking to force the documents’ release.
In October, a panel of three D.C. Circuit judges voted 2-1 that the congressional subpoena was “valid and enforceable” after weighing the various arguments. Trump’s attorneys appealed against that decision and yesterday the D.C. circuit voted by 8-3 to uphold the previous ruling.
“While Congress’s power to investigate as necessary and proper to the legislative power is broad, this subpoena is unprecedented,” wrote dissenting Judge Neomi Rao, who also dissented the previous time, in yesterday’s decision.
“The Constitution and our historical practice draw a sharp line between the legislative and judicial powers of Congress.
“By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment.”
According to Politico, Trump’s lawyers are also taking a separate fight to block the release of his tax returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance up to the Supreme Court after a similar recent ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Vance wants Mazars to release the documents under a grand jury subpoena served on the firm.
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