Judge Rules That Trump’s Accounting Firm Has to Give Records to Congress

By Zachary Stieber

A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama ruled that an accounting firm that was employed by President Donald Trump for years must hand over financial records to Congress.

D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta said in a 41-page opinion on May 20 that Mazars USA must comply with a subpoena from Congress.

The subpoena asked for records relating to Trump and various associated businesses and entities dating back to 2011, citing Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who claimed that Trump would regularly inflate financial statements submitted to banks while deflating the value of certain assets in other cases.

Congress essentially has free reign to investigate the president, Mehta wrote in his opinion (pdf).

“Courts have grappled for more than a century with the question of the scope of Congress’s investigative power,” he wrote. “The binding principle that emerges from these judicial decisions is that courts must presume Congress is acting in furtherance of its constitutional responsibility to legislate and must defer to congressional judgments about what Congress needs to carry out that purpose.”

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, exits federal court, Nov. 29, 2018, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, who filed the subpoena against Trump’s former accounting firm Mazars USA, during a hearing in Washington on March 14, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Top Democrats have said that obtaining the records will help them consider improving ethics and disclosure laws and monitor Trump’s compliance with the foreign emolument clauses. Mehta wrote, “These are facially valid legislative purposes and it is not for the court to question whether the committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations.”

He later said that Congress’s power to impeach goes hand in hand with its nearly unlimited power to investigate a president.

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,” he wrote.

Trump had fought against the subpoena. Lawyers filed a lawsuit on April 22.

“The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump. Subpoenas are their weapon of choice,” Trump’s attorneys wrote on the suit.

Amit Mehta in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx in New York in a 2012 file photo. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump talks to reporters before he departs the White House for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on May 20, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically,” they added.

Trump on Monday called the ruling “crazy.”

“Well, we disagree with that ruling. It’s crazy—because you look at it; this never happened to any other President. They’re trying to get a redo. They’re trying to get what we used to call in school: a deal—a ‘do-over.’ And if you look, you know, we had no collusion, we had no obstruction. We had no nothing. The Democrats were very upset with the Mueller report, as perhaps they should be,” he said in Washington before departing for a rally Pennsylvania.

“But, I mean, the country is very happy about it because there was never anything like that. And they’re trying to get a redo, or a do-over, and you can’t do that. As far as the financials are concerned, we think it’s the wrong—it’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge. He was a recent Obama-appointed judge.”