The Justice Department took President Donald Trump’s side in an ongoing subpoena fight between the President’s private legal team and House Democrats.
The Justice Department is wading into one of the ongoing court battles between Trump as a private citizen and lawmakers, which Trump has so far lost, in an attempt to stop a congressional subpoena for his financial records.
“The House’s lack of responsibility is sufficient reason for this Court to declare this subpoena invalid,” the Justice Department wrote on Tuesday.
In this case, Trump had sued to stop the House Oversight Committee from subpoenaing the accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of his personal and business financial records and other documents. He is not represented by the Justice Department in the case.
A federal district judge ruled against the President, rejecting his attempt to block the committee’s subpoena and asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President.
After Trump appealed, the appeals court asked for the Justice Department’s position in the case.
The suit involving the Oversight Committee subpoena is one of numerous cases where either the Trump administration or Trump’s private businesses are fighting congressional Democrats in court. Trump filed a similar suit to block the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees’ subpoenas of Deutsche Bank and Capital One for his companies’ financial records, and the House has gone to court to obtain the President’s tax returns and grand jury material from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The Justice Department argued that the House must clearly authorize asking for Trump’s personal records and share its legislative purpose for seeking them.
“A congressional demand for the President’s personal records raises the specter that members of the Legislative Branch are impermissibly attempting to interfere with or harass the Head of the Executive Branch, or at least that the subpoena will have that effect, especially given the possibility of a multitude of such subpoenas,” the Justice Department wrote in its brief Tuesday. “The House’s recent blank-check authorization of all existing and future subpoenas concerning the President underscores the need for this Court to require the House itself to provide a clear explanation of the purpose of this specific subpoena.”
Two federal trial-level judges, however, have endorsed House committees’ power to subpoena records about Trump from the accounting firm and the banks. The subpoenas are on hold while appeals courts weigh the arguments.
“History has shown that congressionally-exposed criminal conduct by the president or a high-ranking Executive Branch official can lead to legislation,” Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court wrote in his 41-page opinion siding with Congress.