The battle for Donald Trump’s financial records has finally reached the courts — though it might just be the start of a long and arduous war.
The president’s attorneys urged US district judge Amit Mehta to revoke subpoenas issued by the House oversight and reform committee, which has sought Mr Trump’s tax records from his longtime accountant, Mazars USA.
Mr Trump’s legal team has argued Democrats on Capitol Hill are not seeking his records as part of any legislative effort, instead suggesting the subpoenas serve a law-enforcement purpose outside of congressional jurisdiction.
William Consovoy, one of Mr Trump’s lawyers, also said he did not believe Congress could investigate matters of corruption in relation to the president, telling the judge: “I don’t think that’s the proper subject of investigation as to the president.” He noted that he believed executive agencies could still be investigated, however.
The judge reportedly became “incredulous” due to Mr Consovoy’s response, noting similar investigations against former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, which led to their resignation and impeachment, respectively.
“They were inquiring as to violations of criminal law,” the judge said, according to USA Today. “It’s pretty straightforward — among other things.”
Democrats also appear to be investigating potential violations of criminal law in seeking the president’s tax returns.
As Mr Consovoy himself argued, Congress issued subpoenas to look into whether Mr Trump had provided false information about his financial dealings and loans that may have left him indebted to foreign lenders.
Congressional committees investigating the president were also seeking to confirm whether the president misled banks about his real estate holdings and other inconsistencies that were noted by his longtime former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, during his public testimony on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
Still, the judge expressed a possible defence for Mr Trump, citing at least three possibilities in which the subpoena could be blocked.
The first case would be if the court were to find that Congress did not have the power to probe a president’s personal life. The judge also said the subpoena could be blocked if it appeared Congress was stepping into the arena of the other two branches of government, or that the investigations were simply for the sake of exposure.
The judge did not indicate whether he would allow the subpoena to stand. Both sides have until Saturday to submit additional information.