Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Federal court judges on Friday questioned President Trump's and the House of Representatives' lawyers about Trump's efforts to block a subpoena ordering his firm to deliver financial documents.
The Democrats-led House oversight committee requested information from Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in April. The committee's subpoena concerns financial and other documents related to Trump's personal and business finances dating back to 2011.
Trump, who fought to protect his finances from public opinion, sued to prevent Mazars from handing over the documents. A district court judge rejected Trump's challenge. The President appealed this decision, remitting the case to the court of appeal.
Examination in the hearing room
This paved the way for the scene on Friday morning in the crowded Washington courtroom, where a panel of three California Court Circuit judges heard about two hours of oral argument.
The judges – David S. Tatel, Patricia Millett and Neomi Rao – juggled the issues of the lawyers on both sides for much longer than expected, although the president's challenge seemed cumulatively confronted with a fierce struggle.
Trump's lawyer, William Consovoy, argued that the oversight committee did not have the authority to summon the president to appear or investigate his finances. He also argued that the subpoena did not promote a "legitimate legislative objective".
Consovoy rejected the various legislative reasons cited by the committee for proposing mere "cover" and "trickery" to investigate the president. The Democrats want to go fishing, he said.
"Does it mean finding a wrongdoing or legislation?" Consovoy asked. "I do not think it's a difficult call."
Tatel, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Millett, by President Barack Obama, noted that the House had developed – and in some cases even adopted – legislation addressing issues related to the elements sought in the subpoena. .
"There are pending bills," said Millett. "Must we say that's a trick?"
Hill defends investigations on emoluments
The lawyer representing the committee, the General Counsel of the House, Douglas Letter, said that legislators did have a legitimate legislative purpose.
He said the committee needed Mazars' records to study possible changes to the laws on ethics and financial disclosure. The committee said it was investigating the accuracy of Trump's federal financial statements, possible violations of the Constitution's provisions relating to emoluments and other issues.
"The Oversight Committee ensures that federal public servants – including the Speaker – make decisions in the best interests of the country and not for their own benefit, and that federal government rent and ethics agencies operate according to the law "the Chamber stated in its written brief.
The Mazars case is one of three Trump Financial Registries cases currently underway.
Trump sued Deustche Bank and Capitol One to prevent them from responding to subpoenas from House intelligence and financial services committees for his banking records.
The committees are also studying foreign influence on the American political process. A Federal Court of Appeal must hear arguments in this case next month.
The House Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, is suing to force the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to provide Trump's tax returns for a six-year term.