Trump attorneys to square off with Democrats in appeals case over financial records

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Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A three-judge panel in Washington will hear oral arguments Friday morning on whether President Donald Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, must hand over 10 years worth of the president’s financial records to a Democrat-controlled House committee.

Attorneys on behalf of Trump have been fighting to keep the information out of the hands of the House Oversight Committee since April, when Chairman Elijah Cummings first issued a subpoena for the financial records.

During Friday’s appeals hearing, attorneys for the president are expected to make their case for why a lower court ruling, handed down in May in favor of the House, should be overturned.

The committee has said it requested the documents in an effort to corroborate elements of Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before the committee. During his testimony, Cohen claimed that Trump had, in the past, defrauded insurance companies by misrepresenting the value of his assets. Attorneys for Trump have dismissed Cohen’s testimony as a “political stunt.”

The president’s legal team has argued that the subpoena is politically motivated and sought to have it quashed, calling efforts by Democrats to obtain Trump’s financial information an “all-out political war” in which “subpoenas are their weapon of choice.”

Cummings, in return, has accused the president of “unprecedented stonewalling” as he continues to fight this and other subpoenas issued by the House.

“The President has a long history of trying to use baseless lawsuits to attack his adversaries, but there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress,” Cummings said in a statement addressing the original complaint. “This complaint reads more like political talking points than a reasoned legal brief, and it contains a litany of inaccurate information.”

During a May hearing on this matter, William Consovoy, an attorney for Trump, argued that Democrats had no motive beyond political gains for requesting the president’s records.

“At some point the question is going to be, ‘OK, what is the legitimate legislative purpose?'” he said.

Judge Amit Mehta, who ruled on the case in May, sided with Democrats, stating in his opinion, “It is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political consideration.”

“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,” Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote.

Attorneys for Trump filed to appeal the judge’s decision the following day. The president told reporters he “disagreed” with the ruling and accused Democrats of looking for ways to re-do special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“We disagree with that ruling. It’s crazy — because you look at it — this never happened to any other president. They’re trying to get a redo,” Trump said. “They’re trying to get what we used to call in school a “do-over. And if you look, you know, we had no collusion, we had no obstruction. We had no nothing.”

Trump has kept aspects of his financials more under wraps than have previous presidents. He’s the first president in over 40 years not to voluntarily release his tax returns.

A spokesperson for Mazars USA, which was named as a defendant in the case, confirmed receipt of the lawsuit and said in late April that the firm “will respect this process and will comply with all legal obligations.”

This square-off between the president’s legal team and House Democrats is one of potentially many subpoena disputes that could be headed to the courts in the coming months as the Democratic lawmakers ramp up their investigations into the Trump administration. The White House has signaled its intention not to comply with several subpoenas issued by House Democrats.

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