The House is planning to quickly revisit its effort to obtain President Donald Trump’s personal financial records, urging the Supreme Court on Monday night to take its final formal steps on the matter so lawmakers can reignite the issue in the lower courts.
In a filing late Monday, the House’s top lawyer, Douglas Letter, urged the justices to immediately effectuate their July 9 ruling on the House’s subpoena for Trump’s records. Once the ruling is in force, the House can return to the U.S. District Court judge who initially heard the case and ask for renewed consideration.
“The Committees’ investigations are ongoing, remain urgent, and have been impeded by the lack of finality in these litigations, which were initiated in April 2019,” Letter and other House attorneys wrote.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that lower courts had failed to thoroughly examine whether the House’s subpoenas for Trump’s financial records — one to his accounting firm Mazars USA, the others to Deutsche Bank and Capital One — treaded too forcefully on the separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch, and whether it would be an abuse of Congress’ constitutional lawmaking power. Instead, the justices devised a four-part test to determine whether an effort by Congress to obtain the personal papers of a sitting president is proper — and they urged the lower courts to apply this test on any future attempt by lawmakers to get a president’s records from third-party companies.
But Supreme Court rulings typically don’t go into force immediately, and Letter noted that the Mazars ruling would normally take effect on Aug. 3 without the intervention of the justices. The lower courts can’t begin to take up the effort until the Supreme Court ruling takes hold, and the House is urging the justices to make that happen as quickly as possible. “The Committees have sought expedition at every stage of this litigation,” Letter wrote.
Trump’s legal team said it did not immediately have a position on the House’s request and needed more time to review it, Letter indicated, and he urged the justices to set an expedited schedule for the president’s lawyers to weigh in.
“Immediate issuance of this Court’s judgments,” he continued, “would accelerate the proceedings in the lower courts so that the Committees may obtain the materials necessary to undertake any needed legislative reforms as quickly as possible to address, among other issues, conflicts of interest that threaten to undermine the Presidency, money-laundering and unsafe lending practices, and foreign interference in U.S. elections and any other ongoing threats to national security arising from President Trump’s foreign financial entanglements.”
The high court ruling appeared to doom Democrats’ efforts to obtain Trump’s financial records before the 2020 election, with any renewed consideration in the lower courts likely to go on for months. But the House’s effort to quickly revive the matter suggests they’re still approaching the case with urgency.
Though Letter doesn't suggest that the House is pegging its request to get Trump's records before the election, he emphasizes in the filing that Congress‘ term ends on Jan. 3, 2021.
“[T]he Committees’ window of opportunity to litigate the remands in these cases, then obtain and review the subpoenaed documents, evaluate their significance to potential or pending legislation, draft such legislation or amendments, and shepherd that legislation through the bicameral process diminishes by the day,“ he wrote.
The Supreme Court said the judiciary had never had to consider the appropriateness of a congressional request for a president’s papers because such disputes in the past had always been resolved without litigation. With little history to guide them, the justices in a 7-2 ruling said lawmakers must carefully tailor any request for a president’s papers, detailing why they’re necessary to inform the legislative process and ensuring that their requests are tailored narrowly — seeking no more than what is necessary to inform their efforts.