WASHINGTON — House Democrats who have spent years investigating Donald Trump are entitled to some of the former president's financial records, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington empowering Congress to have the records is the latest development in years-long legal and political skirmishes over access to Trump's closely-held finances. But it's unlikely to be the last say on the matter given expected appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court has already weighed in once.
At issue is a demand from Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which in 2019 and again last February subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for the records.
In his order, Mehta wrote that though he had previously turned aside Trump's challenge to the subpoena and permitted the committee's demand for records to “proceed without qualification,” a Supreme Court opinion from 2020 required a new analysis in favor of more limited access to the records than what lawmakers initially wanted.
That opinion cited separation of power concerns in saying that that while Congress has significant power to demand the president’s personal information, it is not limitless.
Applying factors that the high court set out, Mehta wrote that the House was entitled to a more limited cross-section of Trump's financial records.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and the committee's chairwoman, said in a statement, “Today’s district court opinion recognized that the Oversight Committee is entitled to a broad set of President Trump’s financial records as part of our critical investigation aimed at preventing presidential conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and constitutional violations.”
She said she was pleased the judge had found that the committee was entitled to “eight years of financial information” about the government's lease agreement with the Trump Organization for the Old Post Office Building, the location of the Trump International Hotel, “as well as a broader set of information from the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency.”
Maloney added, "While it is disappointing that the Court, despite finding that the entire subpoena served valid legislative purposes, narrowed the subpoena in some respects, the Committee is actively considering next steps.”
Separately, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel said in an opinion last month that the Treasury Department must provide the House Ways and Means Committee with Trump’s tax returns. That opinion said the committee chairman “has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information” and that under federal law, “Treasury must furnish the information to the Committee.”
The committee's hunt for records overlaps with other records that have already been released to investigators. In 2020, for instance, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in his demand for Trump's tax records, though the ruling kept the documents out of the public eye. Vance's office took possession of those records in February.