A Washington, D.C., federal judge denied President Donald Trump’s request to quash a handful of Congressional subpoenas aimed at compelling his longtime financial firm to turn over documents related to Trump’s business ventures.
Trump has already filed an appeal with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
NBC reports that U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama administration appointee, denied both the president’s request to block the inquiry into his financial history and a separate petition to stall the subpoenas pending an appeal of the decision to a higher court.
Judge Mehta agreed with Congressional Democrats that House committees, including the ones currently investigating the president, have broad discretion to pursue documents and witness statements that they feel are relevant to their inquiries — and that, in this case, includes subpoenaing Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, for his financial records.
“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,” the judge wrote in his decision.
“Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history,” he concluded.
Judge Mehta added that he felt Congress was following a logical path, seeking specific documents related to claims Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, made when he testified in front of Congress: “The decision to issue the subpoena came about after the President’s former lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee that the President routinely would alter the estimated value of his assets and liabilities on financial statements, depending on the purpose for which a statement was needed.”
He went on to note that the Oversight Committee has connected a “legislative purpose” to the information sought through the subpoenas, and that’s largely all that’s required for Congress to issue their demands.
Trump and his team responded by criticizing the judge’s decision and pledging an appeal.
“We disagree with that ruling. It’s crazy,” Trump told reporters in an impromptu Rose Garden press conference Tuesday. “It’s totally the wrong decision by obviously an Obama-appointed judge.”
Trump’s attorneys immediately filed an appeal, which will likely be heard within the next few weeks by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Mehta declined to issue a stay on the subpoenas, though, until the appeal could be heard, allowing Congress to go ahead with their investigation, even as Trump is fighting the subpoenas in court.
Trump’s team has a long road ahead of them, though. Judge Mehta may be an Obama appointee, which demonstrates a lack of credibility to Trump’s team, but the standard by which a Congressional subpoena is judged is fairly low. A court will be looking only to whether the panel in question — in this case, the House Oversight Committee — can make a vague connection between the subpoenas and the investigation at hand.