- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2019

President Trump Thursday asked the Supreme Court to block a congressional subpoena to his longtime accounting firm seeking his financial records.

In the new petition, the president’s lawyers stress the importance of resolving the standoff between the executive and legislative branches. They also say the lower courts got it wrong when they failed to halt the subpoena earlier this year.

“This is a case of firsts,” wrote Jay Sekulow, the president’s attorney. “It is the first time that Congress has subpoenaed personal records of a sitting president. It is the first time that Congress has issued a subpoena under the guise of its legislative powers, to investigate the president for illegal conduct. And it is the first time a court has upheld any Congressional subpoena for any sitting presidents of any kind.”

It is the second such petition Mr. Trump’s legal team has filed with the Supreme Court to shield his tax returns and other financial documents.

The petition Thursday is aimed at shutting out House investigators, while a similar but separate petition filed last month sought to keep those records out of the hands of prosecutors in Manhattan.

The justices are scheduled to discuss the bid to block the subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance during their closed-door conference on Dec. 13.

Last month, the justices halted the subpoena while they debate whether to take up the appeal. The financial records cannot be released while the freeze is in place.

In either case, a ruling from the Supreme Court will almost certainly create a powerful statement on the strength of presidential immunity.

Mr. Sekulow stressed the significance of a decision in the petition, saying the case involves “profoundly serious constitutional questions” and would decide whether “Congress can exercise dominion and control over the Office of the President.”

At issue in the recent petition is a subpoena issued in April by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The subpoena was issued to Mr. Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The committee is investigating whether Mr. Trump or his company reimbursed the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen for hush payments he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Ms. Daniels had alleged an affair with the president, a claim he as denied. Michael Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations related to the payments.

Cohen has also alleged Mr. Trump submitted false financial documents to obtain bank loans.

The president’s legal team has charged the subpoena was improper, accusing the committee of fishing for a crime. They also said the subpoena was unrelated to the committee’s legislative functions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in October rejected that argument, concluding the subpoena is enforceable. Although one of the judges did dissent.

A bid to have a full panel of judges hear an appeal was denied.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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