Lawyers for Donald Trump are in court Friday morning arguing against a subpoena from congressional Democrats seeking financial information from the president’s longtime accountants, Mazars USA LLP.

The Mazars case is one of three testing the power of Congress to compel production of a sitting president’s financial records in the name of oversight. A New York-based federal appeals court next month will hear a similar case — Trump’s appeal of a ruling giving the House Financial Services Committee permission to examine records held by Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.

Friday’s argument in the federal appeals court in Washington was spurred by a demand by the House Oversight Committee. Hearing the case are U.S. Circuit Judges David Tatel and Patricia Millett, appointed by Democratic presidents, and one judge appointed by Trump, Neomi Rao.

President Donald Trump pauses while participating in a Made in America event at the White House
President Donald Trump pauses while participating in a Made in America event at the White House Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Trump is asking them to reverse a ruling by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who rejected arguments that the lawmakers lacked a legitimate legislative purpose for seeking the president’s records and that in so doing they were encroaching on executive branch power by impermissibly engaging in law enforcement.

The case could have a wide-ranging impact on the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

“We are talking about rulings that could have significant constitutional implications going forward for the balance of powers,” George Washington University historian Matt Dallek said in an interview. “The larger question,” he said, is do the rulings reduce Congress to “a second-rate branch.”

Lawmakers exercised equivalent authority during the Watergate and Whitewater probes.

Trump could wind up with a ruling reaffirming congressional power rather than reducing it, said Steven Schwinn, who teaches at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. “My guess is that the Supreme Court won’t want to touch this,” because the president’s arguments are weak and the law is settled.

Mazars has taken no position in the dispute.

Another Democrat-controlled House committee, Ways and Means, filed a lawsuit on July 2 asking a Washington federal court to force the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service to hand over the president’s tax returns for the past six years.

The cases are Trump v. Mazars USA LLP, 19-5142, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington) and Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, 19-1540, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit (Manhattan).

Bloomberg News

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