Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Should Congress Be Allowed to Obtain President Trump's Financial Information?
The Supreme Court on March 31st will hear oral arguments in the cases of Trump v. Mazars USA, Trump v. Deutsche Bank, and Trump v. Vance, the first two of the cases consolidated for argument.
The question in the Mazars case is whether the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives has the constitutional and statutory authority to issue a subpoena to "the accountant of President Trump and several of his business entities" that "demands financial records belonging to the President." The question in the Deutsche Bank case is "whether three committees of the House of Representatives had the constitutional and statutory authority to issue subpoenas to third-party custodians for the personal records of the sitting President of the United States." The question in the Vance case is whether a subpoena issued by NY's DA against the President as part of "a criminal investigation that, by his own admission, targets the President of the United States for possible indictment and prosecution during his term in office," "violates Article II and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution."
For background on the cases see Amy Howe's terrific introduction as part of a Scotus Blog Symposium on these three cases. (here). Also check out the other symposium pieces as they come online on the Scotus Blog here.
There are many amici briefs on these cases that provide unique points that highlight issues not covered in the main briefs. I want to focus on one amici brief - The Brief of Financial Investigation and Money Laundering Experts in Support of Respondent Committees of the U.S. House of Representations. The brief is filed by Jonathan J. Rusch as well as Steven E. Fineman and Daniel Chiplock of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Berstein, LLP. This brief provides important history that "there is nothing unusal about Congressional investigations of the financial affairs of presidents and their family members." They note that what is unusual here is the fact that the President has "consistently demonstrated his resolute opposition to the disclosure of financial information relevant to Congress's concern." Obtaining this information from two banks is therefore needed.
To prohibit these subpoenas would mean that a President could engage in conduct that could never be scrutinized. It is sad to see a President failing to allow scrutiny of this information - information that would be coming from banks and not take up Presidential time. After all - if there is nothing improper, the subpoenas would provide that proof for all to see the propriety of the President's conduct. It is more troubling to see a resistance to important money-laundering initiatives that have come from both the executive and legislative branches of government.