A federal court ruled Wednesday that House Democrats can access some of former President Donald Trump‘s tax documents, but warned that the congressional subpoena to access Mr. Trump‘s accounting firm must be narrow.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, said the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which sought tax returns from Mr. Trump‘s accounting firm Mazars USA dating back to 2011, can receive personal and corporate records related to federal lease agreements, citing his lease with the Old Trump Post Office LLC.
However, the judge said the committee’s request for Mr. Trump‘s personal and corporate records in totality doesn’t square with the separation of powers.
“The more Congress can invade the personal sphere of a former president, the greater the leverage Congress would have on a sitting president,” Judge Mehta ruled. “And the greater the leverage, the greater the improper ‘institutional advantage’ Congress would possess over a co-equal branch of government.”
House Democrats subpoenaed the records in April 2019, but then-President Trump moved to block his accounting firm from handing them over.
The lawmakers argued that they needed to review them for legislative purposes. The former president’s legal team, though, had argued the request was politically motivated.
Lower courts ruled in favor of the House Democrats, but the Supreme Court sided with Mr. Trump, remanding the case back to lower court.
The high court held that lower courts should evaluate concerns about the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.
In Wednesday’s opinion, Judge Mehta attempted to strike a balance.
It is possible Mr. Trump or the House committee could appeal the ruling.
Neither Mr. Trump‘s lawyers nor a spokesperson from the House committee immediately returned a request for comment on Judge Mehta‘s decision.