Trump is fighting a wave of legal to shield his personal finances from investigators, including congressional Democrats, state lawmakers and regulators.
Several fights involve asking judges to weigh in on the constitutional separation of power between coequal executive and legislative branches.
In an April 22 lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers seek to block his accounting firm, Mazars USA, from turning over Trump’s financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee .
Trump’s lawyers argue that the Democrats are “assuming the powers of the Department of Justice” on a partisan crusade, that is not “a valid exercise of legislative power.”
“Is it your position that whether the president has properly reported his finances [under federal disclosure laws], that’s not subject to investigation by Congress?” U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta asked.
# “Say a president was involved in some corrupt enterprise — you mean to tell me because he is the president of the United States, Congress would not have power to investigate?”
Lead Trump attorney William S. Consovoy answered yes, saying that determining whether a president properly disclosed his finances was a “pure law enforcement function,” not a matter for Congress, whose fundamental duty, he said, is writing bills.
“Consovoy’s arguments on behalf of Trump, seeking to block private entities from turning over documents and information needed by Congress to perform its Article I functions, are so preposterous that Judge Mehta had no choice but to resist them,” said constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe. “For the district court to accept those arguments would be astonishing — an unthinkable loss for the separation of powers. For the district court to reject those Trump arguments, as I expect it to do, will be an unsurprising win — a big victory but too predictable to count as a game-changer.”
By making an argument that virtually writes Congress out of the equation, Trump’s lawyers may have set him up for a rude awakening on the subject of separation of powers. As Tribe put it, “It’ll be a self-inflicted wound suffered by Team Trump.”
“There’s not a single Supreme Court or appellate case since 1880 that has found Congress overstepped its legislative authority by issuing a subpoena.” Mehta added.
Douglas N. Letter, general counsel of the House of Representatives, said that Trump’s claim of freedom from congressional oversight marked “a total, basic and fundamental misunderstanding” of the Constitution, saying he would pronounce Congress “a nuisance . . . getting in his way while he’s trying to run the country.”