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The US House should be able to access some of Donald Trump’s tax records through a subpoena to his accounting firm Mazars USA, a federal judge in Washington, DC, ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling is a resounding loss for Trump, given that the accounting records appear to cover financial information that the former President has fiercely protected.
It is a major step toward resolving the long-running fight over access to Trump’s tax records. Trump has been able to delay the subpoena by taking the case to court, appealing all the way to the Supreme Court. That legal fight has lasted more than two years.
The case is a continuation of the House tax returns case that traveled up to the Supreme Court. Now, District Judge Amit Mehta has weighed the House request for Trump’s financial records against the standards laid out by the Supreme Court in its 7-2 ruling last year.
With that Supreme Court opinion in mind, Mehta upheld the parts of the House subpoena that were targeted at the lawmakers’ stated need for considering legislation around Foreign Emoluments Clause issues and the General Services Administration’s lease with the Trump hotel at the Old Post Office building in Washington. The committee also can access some financial documents from 2017 and 2018, Mehta decided.
Mehta ruled that the subpoena of Mazars in some ways should be treated like any subpoena it issues, especially as the committee investigates Trump’s Washington, DC, hotel lease with the federal government.
“The Committee has presented ‘detailed and substantial’ evidence that President Trump, at least through his business interests, likely received foreign payments during the term of his presidency,” Mehta wrote regarding the Emoluments Clause, which bars the acceptance of gifts from foreign nations without congressional approval. The judge noted the Trump Organization gave to the Treasury Department more than $400,000 in payments during Trump’s presidency, “validating the Committee’s belief that President Trump’s business received some foreign payments during his presidency.”
“The Committee therefore is not engaged in a baseless fishing expedition.”
But Mehta said the committee couldn’t get tax records about Trump that date from before his presidency back to 2011. Mehta said that the justifications offered by the House committee for the other records it subpoenaed, which the committee said it needed for potential legislation around presidential financial disclosures, “does not warrant disclosure of President Trump’s personal and corporate financial records when balanced against the separation of powers concerns raised by the broad scope of its subpoena.”
This story has been updated with additional details.