U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday urged a federal appeals court to block NY prosecutors from obtaining eight years of his tax returns, arguing that he was immune from criminal investigation as a sitting president.
In a 2-1 decision by the US Court of Appeals, judges rejected Trump's bid to stop his longtime accounting firm Mazars LLP from having to hand over the documents, including tax returns. The firm has provided accounting services to Trump.
The president is also embroiled in lawsuits with the House Ways and Means Committee, which is trying to get six years of Trump tax records from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and has the standing right to request similar information from the state of NY. Options include a request for the appeal to be heard "en banc" or, possibly, taking it to the Supreme Court.
"Today's ruling is a fundamental and resounding victory for congressional oversight, our constitutional system of checks and balances and the rule of law", he said in a statement.
'Disputes between Congress and the president are a recurring plot in our national story, ' Judge David Tatel wrote in the 66-page opinion.
"The Committee on Oversight and Reform has consistently maintained that it seeks to determine whether the President broke the law, but it has not invoked Congress's impeachment power to support this subpoena", Rao's dissent explains.
In August, Deutsche Bank indicated that it did have tax returns related to the Trump family, but did not identify which particular documents it had.
In this latest case, they can appeal to the full D.C. Circuit - seeking what's called an en banc ruling - or they can take their chances with the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the majority ruling, Tatel wrote: "Contrary to the president's arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House rules and the constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply". He was joined by Judge Patricia Millett, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
Tatel was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
"The Constitution and our historical practice draw a consistent line between the legislative and judicial powers of Congress".
It's the first major case at the appeals court level in the ongoing standoff between the House and Trump.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have been on a hunt for Trump's tax returns since he bucked decades of tradition when he refused to release them during the 2016 election cycle.
The three-judge panel said Mazars doesn't have to comply with the House subpoena right away, granting a 7-day reprieve while Trump's lawyers file their next inevitable appeal. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero threw out Trump's lawsuit on Monday, calling his claim that he was immune from investigation "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values".
The decision rejected Trump's argument that the committee did not have a legitimate legislative goal to seek the records from both before and after he took office. His lawyers have argued that congressional investigations are valid only if there is legislation that might result from them.