A federal judge on Tuesday gave lawyers for President Trump and Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee until the end of the week to make their final arguments on whether the court should uphold a subpoena requesting Trump’s private financial records.
District Judge Amit Mehta, during the first court hearing in D.C. over the subpoena issued by Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) for records from the accounting firm Mazars, said he considers the matter to be “fully exhausted” after hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides.
And he promised to quickly issue a ruling on the matter.
Attorneys for Trump and his businesses argued that the House committee had no standing to issue the subpoena, describing the request for documents as “law enforcement” and going beyond Congress’s authorities.
Trump lawyer William Consovoy said that investigating the president for potential wrongdoing was outside of Congress's constitutional bounds, reiterating an argument that all congressional probes should be tied to legislation.
But Mehta pushed back against some of Consovoy’s remarks by pointing to investigations like Watergate that weren’t tied to specific bills.
“You mean to tell me that because he is the president of the United States, Congress would have no ability to investigate?” Mehta said, referring to Trump.
The judge also pressed Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House of Representatives, over the scope of the Oversight committee’s investigation.
Attorneys for Trump have argued that the subpoena is part of a fishing expedition by Democrats to find damaging information about the president ahead of the 2020 election.
Mehta told Letter that it has been “bothering” him that the committee hasn’t issued a statement on the exact scope of the probe, as other panels have done in the past.
“It really does open the door, it seems to me, to the accusation ... that this really is sort of an effort to not harass the president, but get into his private affairs for political purposes,” the judge said.
Letter pointed to communications issued by Cummings regarding the subpoena that cited testimony from ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohenalleging that Trump inflated his personal wealth for years. Cummings has said the subpoena was issued to determine if that was the case.
Mehta asked Letter how the subpoena, which requested financial documents preceding Trump’s time in office, could be considered a valid use of Congress’s investigatory powers.
Letter replied that Trump has continued to benefit from his private businesses while in office. And he said that the records may reveal that another party, like a foreign government, has knowledge of wrongdoing by the president that they could use as leverage against him.
In one notable exchange, Mehta asked the House counsel if there was anything pertaining to the president that the committee could not subpoena.
Letter conjured up several hypothetical subpoenas that he thought might not stand up in court, like requesting the president’s blood for a blood test, or his diary from when he was 7 years old.
“That would probably stretch my arguments to the breaking point,” Letter added.
He also pushed back on a supposed memorandum of understanding between the House Oversight, Intelligence and Financial Services committees for the sharing of documents obtained through subpoenas that has been referenced in filings from Trump’s lawyers, saying no such documents exists.
But he did say there was an agreement between the Oversight and Financial Services committees relating to a separate document request and that lawmakers did not want to make it public. Read more at The Hill