- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

House Democrats can demand eight years of President Trump’s tax returns, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in a decision that sets up a fierce legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a terse, one-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld an earlier ruling by the same court, denying Mr. Trump’s request for a rehearing by the entire panel.

The decision Wednesday was issued by the court en banc, meaning all of the judges weighed in. It affirmed last month’s 2-1 decision that rejected Mr. Trump’s bid to block the committee from subpoenaing eight years worth of financial records from his accounting firm Mazars USA.

In the decision Wednesday, the 11-judge court split 8-3 with the two of the dissenting judges authoring differing opinions. Among those who disagreed, two — Judges Neomi Rao and Gregory G. Katsas — are Trump appointees.

Judge Rao wrote in her dissent that if the House wants to investigate the president they should use its constitutional impeachment powers rather than invoking its oversight responsibilities.

“By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the president and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment,” she wrote.

Judge Kastas, meanwhile, warned the majority’s decision is a “threat to presidential autonomy and independence.” He added the decision would create “open season on the president’s personal records.”

Jay Sekulow, an attorney for the president, seized upon split decision, saying it gave the president an opening for the Supreme Court to decide the case.

“In light of the well-reasoned dissents, we will be seeking review at the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement.

Despite the panel’s decision, Mr. Trump will not be immediately required to immediately turn over his taxes to Congress. The court said an adverse ruling against the president would not take effect for seven days so his attorneys can petition the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys could file a petition with the Supreme Court as soon as Thursday.

In April, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaed Mazars for financial statements related to the Trump Organization, the Trump Corporation, and Trump International Hotel, which was built on the Old Post Office building in Washington.

The subpoena flowed from testimony by Mr. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, who told lawmakers his ex-boss inflated his wealth when he sought bank loans. Lawmakers say the tax returns are necessary to investigate potential financial fraud by the president.

In the October ruling, the Court of Appeals said the congressional subpoena was part of a “legitimate legislative investigation.”

“Contrary to the president’s arguments, the committee posses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Judge David Tatel, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, wrote in the majority opinion.

Mr. Trump is fighting to keep his tax returns private on a number of fronts. Earlier this month, he lost another legal fight when The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Mazars must turn over his returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

The president’s legal team has also vowed to appeal that decision.

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

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