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(AP Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Supreme Court is next stop in Trump finances fight

President Donald Trump’s next stop in his years-long fight to keep his finances private is the Supreme Court.

A federal appellate panel in New York on Tuesday ordered two major banks to hand over a wide range of the president’s financial records to Congress — and gave Trump a week to take his case to the highest U.S. court. The ruling is the latest legal loss for an administration claiming broad executive power to thwart the demands of lawmakers.

Trump’s bid for a Supreme Court review in one of those cases — in which the Manhattan District Attorney is seeking his tax records — is already scheduled to come before the justices at their private conference on Dec. 13. It’s not clear whether the court will elect to hear any or all of the cases at a time when congressional Democrats are weighing impeachment of the president.

In its ruling Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York rejected arguments by Trump and the Justice Department that the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees had no legitimate reason to seek his business and personal records at Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.

“The committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a chief executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions,” Circuit Judge Jonathan Newman wrote for the majority in the 2-1 opinion.

To avoid having his records turned over to Congress, Trump will likely ask the Supreme Court to temporarily block the banks from complying with the subpoenas, then argue for the high court to take up the case and reverse the lower court’s decision.

“The court is divided between those who would follow established law and enforce the Trump-related subpoenas, and those on the right wing of the court — particularly the Trump Justices, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch,” said Charles Tiefer, a former House lawyer who teaches at the University of Baltimore School of law.

Tuesday’s ruling marks another federal appeals court decision that has gone against Trump and his legal arguments in support of secrecy and executive privilege.

Trump, the Trump Organization and the president’s oldest children have steadfastly refused to surrender their records to Congress. Armed with the documents, Democratic lawmakers will be able to more fully explore any conflicts of interest in the executive branch and whether the president has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses against accepting foreign gifts.

‘Invalid’ subpoena

“We believe the subpoena is invalid as issued,” White House Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement Tuesday. “In light of the Second Circuit decision, we are evaluating our next options including seeking review at the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Judge Debra Ann Livingston dissented from parts of the majority opinion, writing that the case should be sent back for the lower court to more closely examine the legal issues raised by Trump and to “afford the parties an opportunity to negotiate.”

Trump has lost on appeal in several other cases recently.

Last month, the Manhattan-based appeals court said the president had no right to block a subpoena for his tax filings from the New York district attorney, who is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to hide hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with him. Trump has appealed to the Supreme Court.

More rulings

In another case, a federal appeals court in Washington upheld the validity of congressional subpoenas for Trump’s financial records. And a district judge in Washington ordered former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena for his testimony, despite Trump’s claim that the subpoena was precluded by presidential immunity.

Breaking with four decades of presidential tradition, Trump has declined to make his detailed financial records public. Acting in his personal capacity rather than as president, he sued in April to stop Deutsche Bank and Capital One from handing over his records after they had been subpoenaed by the House committees. He lost in federal district court in May and appealed.

Possible Russian ties

Democrats told the appellate panel on Aug. 23 that they had subpoenaed the records as they investigate potential money laundering by Russian oligarchs, along with Trump’s possible ties to Russia and whether the Kremlin has leverage over him. Trump argued that Congress’s request had no legitimate legislative purpose and should be rejected. The banks took no position.

Two subpoenas to Deutsche Bank demanded account information for Trump, his children and their immediate families and seven Trump businesses, requiring documents dating to 2010 and in some cases with no time limit. Capital One, where Trump has held checking and savings accounts since at least 2015, was ordered to supply records for 15 Trump businesses, according to court papers filed by Trump’s legal team.

The bank case is one of several testing Congress’s power to obtain a sitting president’s financial records in the name of oversight, with significant implications for the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

The case is Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, 19-1540, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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