U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta heard arguments regarding a lawsuit that was filed over whether or not the House Oversight and Reform Committee was entitled to financial records from President Trump’s accounting firm Mazar USA.
As the News Blender reported in April, the House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings issued a subpoena to Mazar in order to “corroborate Michael Cohen’s testimony that Trump overvalued his assets for personal gain, misleading banks and insurers. In March, Cummings asked the accounting firm for financial statements and audits, as well as supporting documents and communications between Mazars and Trump.”
In court Tuesday Mehta said via the Washington Post that he would not issue a ruling from the bench, “My decision in this case will be issued promptly, but it will be issued consistent with the gravity of the issues, and the importance of the issues to the parties.”
Courthouse News reporter Britain Eakin live tweeted the event.
Highlights from the hearing.
Attorney William Consovoy argued on behalf of President Trump.
Consovoy: Cummings has made clear that this is not about legislation. "They want to know if there was wrongdoing."— Britain Eakin (@BritainEakin) May 14, 2019
Consovoy is arguing that because the president is not a federal agency, Congress cannot investigate his financial records. Mehta responds: You mean to tell me that because he's the president of the United States Congress has no authority to investigate?"— Britain Eakin (@BritainEakin) May 14, 2019
Mehta suggests that he's being asked to do something he's specifically prohibited from doing: "I can't look to Congress' motives." Even, he adds, if the president thinks the congressional purpose is wrong. Consovoy says he's not asking the judge to look at motive.— Britain Eakin (@BritainEakin) May 14, 2019
USA Today reporter Brad Heath reports that Mehta has “cited three possible reasons Tuesday to block the subpoena: that Congress has no general authority to investigate the president’s private life, that it can’t investigate for the sake of exposure and that Congress can’t encroach on the powers of the other two branches.”
He added that Mehta didn’t indicate if he found “those reasons sufficiently persuasive to block the House subpoena. But he suggested history might not be on the president’s side, saying courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880 and questioning Trump’s lawyers about the basis for previous investigations of presidents.”
President Trump's lawyers told a judge today that Congress didn't have the power to investigate him for corruption, and suggested that both the Whitewater and Watergate investigations were invalid attempts at "law enforcement." https://t.co/xwY2K5Jr21 pic.twitter.com/18C79TBHWO— Brad Heath (@bradheath) May 14, 2019
House General Counsel Douglas Letter argued that Cummings has said “docs given by Michael Cohen show there might be violations of Ethics in Government Act.”
Little responds: There are documents in the public records. It's not like the committee issued the subpoena and then went silent. Cummings has said some things clearly: docs given by Michael Cohen show there might be violations of Ethics in Government Act.— Britain Eakin (@BritainEakin) May 14, 2019
Little raises the example of the Presidential Records Act as an example of how Congress can regulate the president to counter Consovoy's arguments. For many years presidents destroyed records. "We learned from Nixon that that was no good," Little said.— Britain Eakin (@BritainEakin) May 14, 2019
BuzzFeed reporter Zoe Tillman.
Full story is coming, but the gist was:— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) May 14, 2019
– Trump's lawyer argued Congress has very little, if any, power to investigate the president absent a specific, predefined legislative purpose
– The House's lawyer argued that's bogus and totally unsupported by SCOTUS precedent
Judge Mehta wrapped up the hearing by stating that it would be open until May 18th, no ruling is expected this week, but is possible over the weekend.
Addendum: Per formal order after the hearing, the record is open until May 18, which is Saturday (so still, no ruling this week)— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) May 14, 2019
of note: I have verified that Douglas Letter is the House Counsel, “little” referenced in the tweets, is simply a typo.