Judge Says Trump's Records Must Be Disclosed, But....

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 21, 2019

Over President Trump's objections, a federal judge has said Trump's accounting firm must turn over records pre-dating his presidency.

White House lawyers had argued that Congress crossed the line by attempting to subpoena the president's records, but the judge said Congress was well within its authority. The House of Representatives is already using the decision to subpoena Trump's bank records in a separate proceeding. Trump has filed for review in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where the odds-makers are lining up. Excuse us, we mean the judges.

Meet the Judges

Judge Merrick Garland is chief judge of the DC Circuit, and a former nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. His nomination was famously delayed by Republicans during Barack Obama's last, lame-duck year. Trump then nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy. The Twitterverse sees it as payback time, but Garland won't necessarily hear Trump's appeal because cases are assigned to the circuit judges randomly.

Judge Gregory Katsas, appointed by Trump, is a recent addition to the appeals court. He is no more likely to hear the case than Garland, except that Katsas said he would recuse himself from matters regarding the Mueller probe because he previously worked on related issues as a private attorney.

Judge Neomi Rao, the newest member of the circuit bench, replaced Kavanaugh. But with two other Republican appointees on the circuit, they are outnumbered 7-4 by judges appointed by Democrats. Not that politics matters in Washington D.C.

In the meantime, the D.C. Circuit is open for business on a summer schedule -- the calendar shows only one argument through August. Court Clerk Mark Langer told the Washington Post, however, that the court can add arguments "if the case is important enough or requires quick disposition." For most litigants, that means no. For the president, it means yes.

Meet the Congress

Trump is fighting an uphill battle, legal experts say. Kerry Kircher, former House general counsel, said there's a "very good chance" Congress will get the president's records. He said the courts have often upheld congressional investigative power over the executive branch. "Congress has broad oversight, and it plays a very important role in the way our government operates, and courts have recognized that for decades and decades," he said.

Even if Trump petitions the U.S. Supreme Court, he said, Congress will likely have the records before the end of the year. That's because the Supreme Court probably won't take the case.

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