Judge Puts Fight For Trump Financial Records On The Fast Track

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is speeding up a dispute between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump over a subpoena for records from the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said in a new order that he will decide the case after a May 14 hearing, far earlier than initially anticipated. The accelerated pace could give the House Committee on Oversight and Reform access to Trump’s accounting records sooner than they had hoped, should Mehta rule in their favor.

“The sole question before the court is the House Oversight Committee’s issuance of a subpoena to Mazars USA LLP for financial records of President Trump and various associated entities a valid exercise of legislative power? is fully briefed, and the court can discern no benefit from an additional round of legal arguments,” Mehta wrote. “Nor is there an obvious need to delay ruling on the merits to allow for development of the factual record.”

Mehta’s order gives all sides until Monday afternoon to object to his decision to put the case on the fast track.

The Oversight Committee issued a subpoena to Mazars on April 15 after hearing testimony from Michael Cohen, a onetime Trump confidant. Cohen told the panel that the president and his accountants inflated his assets or omitted liabilities to meet his current needs, like acquiring a new entity or dodging real estate taxes. (RELATED: Don McGahn Stiff-Arms Democrats, Defies Subpoena For Mueller Records)

Michael Cohen testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 27, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 27, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

In turn, the president sued Mazars and top Democrats on the Oversight Committee to prevent disclosure of the records. Trump and his attorneys say Democrats are pursuing the accounting records as part of a partisan fishing expedition, making the subpoena illegitimate. Congressional subpoenas must be connected to a “legitimate legislative purpose.”

“‘Oversight’ and ‘transparency,’ in a vacuum, are not legitimate legislative purposes that can justify subpoenaing a private citizen,” Trump lawyers wrote in court documents. “For more than a century, in fact, the Supreme Court has been quite ‘sure’ that neither the House nor Senate ‘possesses the general power of making inquiry into the private affairs of the citizen.'”

Democrats counter that they do have legislative reasons for reviewing Trump’s accounting records the House adopted H.R. 1 on March 8, a wide-ranging reform package that imposes new financial disclosure requirements on the president. The House is also considering legislation to reform the Office of Government Ethics and prohibit the president from doing business with the federal government. Trump’s accounting records, Democrats say, bear on Congress’s consideration of those bills.

“The committee’s subpoena to Mazars expressly relates to numerous investigations consistent not only with the committee’s legislative jurisdiction, but also its broad oversight and investigative mandate,” Democrats said in court filings.

Other congressional committees are seeking access to the president’s bank records and tax returns.

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