- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2019

A federal appeals court gave the OK Friday to House Democrats’ subpoena demanding a trove of President Trump’s financial documents from one of his accounting firms, in a ruling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi labeled “a major victory.”

The 2-1 ruling of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is the latest blow to Mr. Trump as he tries to battle a zealous impeachment probe.

Judge David S. Tatel, a Clinton appointee to the bench, said the Oversight Committee’s subpoena for records from Mazars USA, the accounting firm, is valid and enforceable. He rejected the president’s claims that the committee was on an untenable fishing expedition, and that it needed a more firm grant of power by Congress to pursue the information.

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The subpoena concerns allegations Mr. Trump paid hush money to two porn stars during the 2016 campaign. The subpoena was issued in April, well before House Democrats announced they were in the midst of an impeachment inquiry of the president, and the fight is not directly related to that inquiry.

But the ruling is likely to boost Democrats’ hopes as they prepare to battle the president on a slew of subpoenas and demands for witnesses to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

Judge Tatel and Judge Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee, said the House’s regular investigative powers are strong enough to demand the most private information from the president.

“We detect no inherent constitutional flaw in laws requiring presidents to publicly disclose certain financial information. And that is enough,” Judge Tatel wrote.

He said Congress’s assertion that it is considering new laws to govern presidential ethics is enough to justify such a subpoena.

House Democrats said the ruling should be a signal to Mr. Trump to drop his blanket resistance to their investigative efforts.

“Today’s ruling is a fundamental and resounding victory for Congressional oversight, our constitutional system of checks and balances, and the rule of law,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the Oversight Committee, said Friday.

Republicans have been harshly critical of the subpoena.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking Republican on the committee, said it was based solely on information gotten from Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer who was found to have misled Mr. Cummings’ committee just weeks before the subpoena.

Mr. Jordan warned that the committee has a track record of leaking sensitive information, justifying the president’s intention to fight the disclosures.

Dissenting in Friday’s ruling was Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, who said the court was expanding Congress’s powers to a degree not seen before.

She said if Democrats want to dig so deeply, they need to take the politically tricky step of launching impeachment proceedings.

“When the House chooses to investigate the President for alleged violations of the laws and the Constitution, it must proceed through impeachment, an exceptional and solemn exercise of judicial power established as a separate check on public officials,” she wrote.

Perhaps anticipating future battles, Judge Rao pointed out that in the 1998 pursuit of impeachment against President Clinton, the full House had a floor vote to authorize an inquiry.

Mrs. Pelosi has refused so far to take that step to hold a vote this time, instead unilaterally declaring the House is now in an impeachment inquiry.

On Friday, she took vindication in the new ruling.

“The court rejected the administration’s defiance of Congress’s oversight authority,” she said.

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