Appeals Court To Trump: Yes, Congress Can Subpoena Tax Records
A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that President Donald Trump must allow accounting firms with access to his tax records to comply with Congressional subpoenas.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld an earlier decision by a lower court that found Mazars USA should turn over tax documents that Democrats in Congress had subpoenaed, CNBC reported. Trump had appealed that decision in an effort to prevent those records from being seen by members of Congress.
The 2-1 decision split along partisan lines. The dissenter, Judge Neomi Rao, is a Trump appointment. The two other judges, Judge David Tatel and Judge Patricia Millett, are appointments made by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively.
Tatel, writing the opinion for the court’s decision, emphasized that the rules clearly established the right of Congress to subpoena Trump’s records.
“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the [congressional] Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” the opinion read.
The ruling won’t officially go into effect for another seven days, to allow for Trump to petition for a rehearing or to appeal en banc to the full D.C. Circuit Court. Trump may also try and appeal directly the the Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all.
Judge Tatel’s opinion, joined by Judge Millett, is convincing. Judge Rao’s dissent makes no sense and would overturn a long line of Supreme Court precedents affirming broad congressional oversight powers. Trump’s position here is legally untenable. https://t.co/WCGXZkyVv6
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) October 11, 2019
The ruling on Friday was unrelated to another ruling earlier this month, previously reported on by HillReporter.com, where the district attorney of Manhattan was attempting to subpoena Trump’s tax returns from Mazars USA as well. The judge in that case ruled last week in that case that the president cannot restrict a subpoena order on the basis of believing that the president cannot be charged with a crime while in office.
The right of Congress to subpoena tax records of individuals, including the president of the United States, stems from a 1924 law. Requests for tax records come from the chair of one of three committees, according to that provision: the House Ways and Means Committee; the Senate Finance Committee; or the Joint Committee on Taxation, NPR reported last year.
The decision to subpoena those records does not require a full vote of the house from which it stems from, nor a vote from the committee itself concurring with the chair’s decision, in order for it to be carried out.