Trump tax: US appeals court upholds release of financial records to House

A federal appeals court panel ruled Friday that House lawmakers can see former President Donald Trump’s financial accounting records, but narrowed the range of documents Trump must turn over in a long-running legal battle over the president’s compliance with ethics and disclosure laws.

The fight isn’t over — either side can appeal the three-judge panel’s decision to the full U.S. Court of Appeals, either to the DC Circuit or the Supreme Court. But the decision marked a partial victory for each side over a 2019 subpoena the House Oversight Committee issued to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA.

“We uphold the committee’s authority to subpoena certain financial records of President Trump for the committee’s enumerated legislative purposes,” Chief Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote. “But we cannot sustain the breadth of the committee’s subpoena.”

In July 2020, the panel reviewed a case that the US Supreme Court had returned to lower courts.

A A complex, nuanced 67-page commentary, Srinivasan explained how to apply the Supreme Court’s directive to “press a subpoena broader than is reasonably necessary to support Congress’s legislative intent.” The case involves an unprecedented fight over how far Congress can go in investigating alleged scandals by the nation’s chief executive, and what protections former presidents retain from lawmakers’ investigations after they leave office under the Constitution’s powers clause.

Trump, who lost re-election in 2020 and is preparing another bid for the White House in 2024, is the first major-party candidate in decades to refuse to release his tax returns. Criticize openly Internal Revenue Service to audit him. Trump refused exemption He held his business holdings, and while in office oversaw the government leasing agency for his flagship Washington Hotel, even as he made millions from both of his businesses. Central government And foreign powers.

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In response, congressional Democrats have made several attempts to investigate his finances, which is Trump Stoned. The House Oversight Committee has requested a range of information from Mazars about Trump and his business enterprises spanning an eight-year period from 2011 to 2018, saying his presidency exposed weaknesses in oversight. The committee said it sought documents to corroborate Trump’s testimony that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen artificially inflated and deflated the value of his assets for personal gain.

Trump filed suit in May 2019 to block the release, arguing that he has absolute immunity from congressional investigations and that House Democrats only want to expose his data for political gain.

In another case still pending appeal, Trump also resisted a House Ways and Means Committee request to see six years of his federal tax records. After Trump left office, President Biden’s Treasury Department agreed to release the records, and a federal judge appointed by Trump Agreed last December. Trump continues to fight for freedom as a private citizen.

In Friday’s ruling, Justices Srinivasan and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Judith W. Rogers – That question was raised during oral arguments late last year As Trump lawyer Cameron Norris has argued, forcing the former president to share his financial information when he leaves office could have a “chilling effect” on all future commanders.

At the same time, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the third justice who heard the arguments but was elevated to the Supreme Court and did not participate in the opinion — expressed concern about carving out long-standing protections for presidents after they return to private lives. , undermining the authority of Congress.

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Ultimately, Srinivasan led the way in a mediation, parsing three types of information the group had requested — documents related to Trump’s business and personal financial records with Mazars; Records related to Trump’s federal lease It recently sold the Trump International Hotel in the old post office building in downtown Washington; and records related to laws related to the “Foreign Emoluments” section of the Constitution, which prohibits presidents from receiving gifts from foreign countries.

Lawmakers could obtain Mazars records, supporting documents and engagement letters from 2014 to 2018, the court said, but only if they “state, refer to or discuss undisclosed, false or misleading information” about Trump’s reported assets, liabilities or income, as well as if the information is incomplete, inaccurate or “otherwise unsatisfactory. No” and any related communications.

The court upheld a subpoena for documents related to Trump’s federal hotel lease from his election in November 2016 to 2018, but not the business that held the lease, Trump Old Post Office LLC. Finally, the appeals court agreed that it could obtain all documents from 2017 and 2018 relating to financial relationships or transactions between Trump or the Trump Organization and “any foreign state or foreign government agency, the United States, any federal agency, any state or any government agency, or an individual. Government official.

According to the court, the committee gathered “extensive evidence of suspected misrepresentations and omissions” in Trump’s required disclosure forms, and provided “detailed and substantial” explanations of his financial disclosures, government contracts and acceptance of foreign gifts as president. Changes in federal law would protect police conflicts of interest between taxpayers and political officials.

“If the amount of evidence presented by the panel here is insufficient to obtain a brief subset of the former president’s information, we doubt that any Congress could obtain the president’s papers,” the justices wrote, adding that “requiring disclosures aimed at preventing presidents from engaging in self-dealing and other conflicts of interest is a legitimate legislative purpose.” “

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“Former President Donald Trump showed an unprecedented disregard for federal ethics and financial transparency,” said House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.) said in a written statement. “It’s disappointing that the court narrowed the subpoena on some points,” he said, adding, “It upheld key parts of the committee’s subpoena, reaffirmed our authority to obtain documents from Mazar and rejected former President Trump’s fallacious arguments that Congress cannot investigate his financial misconduct.”

Trump lawyers with the Consovoy McCarthy law firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Friday’s ruling overturned a similar August 2021 decision by a trial judge in the case. US District Judge Amit P. Mehta, the limited documents that lawmakers can obtain include his personal financial records from 2017 and 2018, when Trump was president, and records related to his Washington hotel lease and payroll rules.

Chief Justice John G. Courts acted after Roberts Jr. in July 2020 upheld Congress’s authority to issue subpoenas for the president’s personal financial records, but He ruled The 7-to-2 opinion held that congressional subpoenas seeking presidential information “should not be broader than reasonably necessary” and sent the question to lower courts to develop a standard.

The case was not resolved before Congress’ term ended in January 2020, but the newly elected House, still under Democratic control, renewed its request in February 2021.

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

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