Donald Trump's Financial Records May Finally Be Seen by House Committee

Former President Donald Trump's financial records could finally be heading for the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee after a protracted legal battle lasting two years.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will decide whether the former president must hand over two years of financial information and records relating to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Arguments in the case were heard on Monday and a decision could come as soon as in the next few days.

That panel contains Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who recently ruled against Trump's attempt to shield documents from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 events as part of a separate three-judge panel.

Jackson is joined by Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan and Judge Judith W. Rogers, who will rule on the former president's challenge to the House Oversight Committee's subpoena.

The committee initially issued the subpoena to Trump's accounting firm Mazars USA in 2019 in an effort to confirm testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen regarding allegations that the Trump Organization had misstated the value of some assets for financial purposes.

A long legal battle ensued, which eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts for further litigation.

The justices found that congressional subpoenas seeking information from presidents must be "no broader than reasonably necessary" and left the lower courts to decide that standard.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled on August 11 to uphold the committee's subpoena - as he had previously ruled during the first round of litigation - but narrowed its scope from eight years of data to two years. Those two years are 2017 and 2018 - the first two years of Trump's term.

Mehta also allowed the committee to seek records relating to the Trump Organization's federal lease of the Old Post Office building in D.C., the current site of a Trump hotel, relating to the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution that forbids presidents from receiving gifts from other nations without the consent of Congress.

The judge found that the House Oversight Committee had provided "detailed and substantial" evidence that Trump or his businesses may have received foreign payments during his time in office.

"The Committee therefore is not engaged in a baseless fishing expedition," Mehta said.

The case has now come before the D.C. Circuit, which previously ruled in favor of the House Oversight Committee before the Supreme Court ordered further proceedings.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter urged the three judges to uphold the Mazars subpoena.

"There were serious problems that could have gone to major national security concerns because of Mr. Trump's financial interests with, for example Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia," Letter said. "There is so much smoke here, it is blinding and it's hard to breathe."

Access to Financial Records

Cameron Norris, Trump's attorney, warned of a "chilling effect" if Congress were given unlimited access to financial records of former presidents.

"This is a subpoena about the presidency," Norris argued. "The more you let Congress do to the former president, the more leverage they have over the current president."

"There is no principled way to limit the fallout to President Trump," he said.

In their questioning, Chief Judge Srinivasan and Judge Jackson appeared to favor the House Oversight Committee's position, expressing concerns about creating privileges for former presidents.

"You do have an executive branch and a legislative branch — but the person associated with this subpoena is neither of those," Srinivasan said, appearing to echo comments made by his colleagues in addressing the House Select Committee case. Srinivasan wasn't a member of the panel that decided that matter.

Whatever the appeals court decides, Trump is almost certain to appeal to the Supreme Court, which may now have to decide on the substance of the subpoena rather than ordering further proceedings.

Donald Trump Arrives at a Rally
Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to hold a rally on July 3, 2021, in Sarasota, Florida. Trump's financial records are the subject of ongoing litigation with the House Oversight Committee. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images