Andrew Harnik / AP file
A federal appeals court ruled last week that President Donald Trump’s accounting firm must turn over financial records requested by a House committee.
In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the court disagreed but put a temporary hold on the legal effect of its decision to allow Trump’s lawyers to appeal. A large part of the court’s opinion, which runs more than 100 pages, can be distilled into three questions: Is the Oversight Committee pursuing a legislative, as opposed to a law-enforcement, objective? Is the committee investigating a subject on which constitutional legislation could be enacted? And does the subpoena seek information relevant to the legislative inquiry?
An April memorandum from Elijah Cummings, the longtime Baltimore congressman and chairman of the oversight panel who died on Thursday, identified four objectives of the subpoena: determine “whether the President may have engaged in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office”; “whether [the President] has undisclosed conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions”; “whether [the President] is complying with the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” and “whether [the President] has accurately reported his finances to the Office of Government Ethics and other federal entities.”
To the court, this and other supporting documents provided strong evidence that the committee has a valid legislative purpose.