Supreme Court grants Trump's request to temporarily block two banks from disclosing his financial records
By KEVIN MCCOY | USA Today | Published: December 7, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — President Donald Trump on Friday turned to the Supreme Court for the third time in an effort to prevent disclosure of his financial records. And, in an order issued Friday evening by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the high court granted Trump's emergency request submitted earlier in the day.
Trump's personal lawyers filed an emergency action that asked the high court to block the impact of a lower appeals court ruling issued roughly 72 hours earlier. That ruling said he must turn over a broad range of financial records two committees in the Democratically-controlled House subpoenaed from a pair of banks that have done business with Trump.
Hours later, the Supreme Court stayed the appeals court ruling until Dec. 13, and directed the House committees to file their legal arguments in response to Trump's by Dec. 11.
Trump's lawyers sought the temporary block of the decision by the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in order to have sufficient time to argue for a full review by the high court in the separation-of-powers legal battle between Congress and the president.
Trump had needed to act fast in asking the Supreme Court to intercede. His lawyers said the appeals court issued its legal mandate before the presidential legal team could seek a rehearing. That left Supreme Court action as Trump's last chance to seek a temporary legal block that would prevent an immediate release of his financial records.
"The subpoenas targeting the President, his family, and his business dealings do not fall within the Committees' constitutional or statutory authority," Trump attorney Patrick Strawbridge argued in Friday's filing.
"The issue at this stage is straightforward: whether the President will be allowed to petition for review of an unprecedented demand for his personal papers, or whether he will be deprived of that opportunity because the Committees issued these subpoenas to third parties with no incentive to test their validity. This choice should be easy," the filing also contended.
Unfolding against the backdrop of presidential impeachment proceedings, the case and two similar lawsuits in which Trump has sought Supreme Court help in overturning unfavorable rulings could bring the Democratic-controlled House closer to obtaining the former real estate developer and reality TV star's financial records.
Friday's filing involves subpoenas that the House Intelligence Committee and the Financial Services Committee served on Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial. Both institutions have done business with Trump, his family, and his family businesses.
The subpoenas seek access to accounts, financial transactions, and investments involving Trump, his three oldest children and other relatives, as well as several entities of the Trump Organization.
Friday's filing followed Trump appeals to the Supreme Court in recent weeks as he similarly tried to block the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and New York City prosecutor Cyrus Vance from getting access to his tax returns and financial records. The oversight panel and Vance subpoenaed Trump's records from Mazars USA, Trump's longtime accounting firm.
Vance has sought the tax and other records for a state criminal grand jury investigation into payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump years before he won the White House in 2016. Trump has denied the women's allegations.
The House oversight panel seeks similar data as it weighs whether legislation is needed to curb potential presidential conflicts of interest and alleged illegal conduct.
The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to take either case involving the tax returns for a full review of lower court rulings that went against Trump. It could make those decisions later this month or in January.
Indeed, the court is set to have its first opportunity to consider whether to accept Trump's appeal regarding the Vance subpoena on Dec. 13, the same day through which the stay granted by Ginsburg in Friday's action remains in effect.
Should the court take either or both of the tax return cases, rulings could be issued by next June, amid the 2020 presidential campaign.
Despite losing in the lower federal courts, Trump lawyers hope for legal victories in the nation's highest court. Two Trump appointees, Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are now part of the Supreme Court's five-justice conservative majority on the nine-justice high court.
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