- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2019

President Trump battled his political foes’ legal assaults on two fronts Monday.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary stay allowing Mr. Trump to keep his tax returns away from prying House Democrats, at least for now.

And across town, an attorney for House Democrats demanded access to the grand jury materials underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, saying it is part of a probe into whether the president committed perjury.

The Supreme Court order halts a lower-court ruling requiring Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, to turn over the president’s tax returns and financial documents to Democrats in their impeachment probe.

The president’s legal team last week petitioned the high court to put on hold a ruling from the lower courts siding with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which issued a subpoena for the documents.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. granted the administration’s request to stay the ruling against Mr. Trump “until further order.” He did not say when the high court will rule, but did request that House Democrats respond by Thursday to the president’s petition.

Known as an administrative stay, the court’s action is not an indication of how it might rule in the legal fight. It merely gives the court more time to mull legal arguments.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have pushed for the House subpoena to be thrown out. They have claimed the president is immune from a criminal investigation while in office and upholding the subpoena would create open season on presidents.

“Given the temptation to dig up dirt on political rivals, intrusive subpoenas into personal lives of presidents will become our new normal in times of divided government — no matter which party is in power,” his lawyers wrote last week

House Democrats have argued the material is pertinent to their investigation into whether the president committed financial fraud. The committee is investigating hush-money payments made to two women who alleged affairs with Mr. Trump.

On a separate front, a lawyer for House Democrats told a federal judge the impeachment inquiry now includes an investigation into whether Mr. Trump lied to Mr. Mueller’s investigators.

House general counsel Douglas Letter told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia the probe underscores the need for the Mueller grand jury materials.

“Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” Mr. Letter asked the judge.

The inquiry follows last week’s bombshell testimony from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. Mr. Gates testified in the trial of former Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress to stonewall the Russia probe.

Mr. Gates testified that the president and Mr. Stone talked on the phone in late July 2016 during a car ride. Upon ending the Stone phone call, Mr. Trump said “more information would be coming,” which Gates took as an apparent reference to WikiLeaks releasing stolen Democratic emails.

That testimony appears to contradict Mr. Trump’s 2018 written answers to the Mueller team. Mr. Trump wrote that he could not recall Mr. Stone or other campaign associates “having any discussions, directly or indirectly, with WikiLeaks … regarding the content or timing or release of hacked emails.”

But others who testified during the Stone trial said the longtime political operative was viewed as the campaign’s key conduit to WikiLeaks.

“I think it was generally believed that the access point or potential access point to WikiLeaks was Roger Stone,” former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon testified.

The Justice Department has argued against releasing the grand jury materials to the Democrats. Department attorneys have argued that impeachment trials are not judicial proceedings and that the courts should not be involved.

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

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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