Supreme Court

In Trump Subpoena Fight, the Supreme Court Weighs Executive vs. Congressional Power

A major constitutional clash is unfolding at SCOTUS.

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A constitutional clash between the executive authority of the president and the subpoena powers of Congress is now unfolding before the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of the case may reverberate long after Donald Trump has vacated the White House.

At issue in Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, is whether the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives overstepped its legal and constitutional authority in 2019 when it subpoenaed Mazars USA, Trump's longtime accounting firm, demanding eight years of financial records pertaining to Trump and several of his business entities.

This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has been asked to review the scope of such congressional power. In Barenblatt v. United States (1959), the Court ruled that "Congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate." In Eastland v. U.S. Servicemen's Fund (1975), the Court reaffirmed that basic principle, holding that the congressional subpoena power may only be used for a "legitimate legislative purpose."

The central question in Trump v. Mazars USA is whether the House Oversight Committee has a "legitimate legislative purpose" in seeking Trump's financial records.

The House Oversight Committee insists that it does. "The Committee's interests in these matters," wrote then-chairman Elijah Cummings (D–Md.) in an April 2019 memorandum, "informs its review of multiple laws and legislative proposals under [its] jurisdiction." For example, if Trump's financial records reveal that he is violating federal ethics laws while in office, then the committee may use that information to help fashion new laws that better target such presidential wrongdoing.

The committee spelled out this argument in greater detail in its brief urging the Supreme Court to deny Trump's petition to grant review of the case. "The election of a President who has decided to maintain his ties to a broad array of business ventures raises questions about the adequacy of existing legislation concerning financial disclosures, government contracts with federal officeholders, and government ethics, more generally," the committee's brief states. "Whether new legislation on these subjects is needed is a natural subject of Congressional inquiry."

Trump's legal team counters by dismissing that argument as a mere pretext for an illegal fishing expedition by the president's political foes. Under the committee's theory, the Trump legal team told the Supreme Court in a brief filed this week, "a congressional committee merely needs to say that it is considering legislation requiring presidents to disclose information of this type. Given the temptation to investigate the personal lives of political rivals, legislative subpoenas targeting the private affairs of presidents will become routine in times of divided government."

In other words, Trump's argument goes, the House subpoena should be squashed in this case not to protect Trump personally but to protect the office of the presidency in general.

Oral arguments in Trump v. Mazars USA are scheduled for March 31.

NEXT: Lamar Alexander, a Key GOP Senator, Says Trump's Delay of Ukraine Funds Was 'Inappropriate'—but Not Impeachable

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  1. Emoluments (and Ethics Reform Act of 1989), mother fucker. Don’t like your finances being investigated? Then divest from your holdings. Like every other president since the 70’s.

    1. YZEAH!!!!!!!!

    2. Hurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr if you wanted constitutional separation of powers and privacy rights you shouldn’t have won the presidency DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

      Don’t you ever get tired of being factually incorrect, rhetorically incoherent, and dumber than the food you eat, cytotoxic?

      1. All of you brown shirts can’t decide who I am impersonating, but I must be impersonating somebody! Your right wing reptile brains are so smooth and simple. Pattern recognition, hostility to otherness, and not much else.

        1. Brown shirts, really? The so called antifa movement much more closely resembles the SA then someone calling you an idiot. Try less hyperbole and more actual arguments.

          1. Go to another rally and cheer when someone gets sucker punched, all encouraged by a raving idiot on a podium. Yeah, not at all reminiscent of another xenophobic political movement from the 20th century.

            1. Who uses violence to keep people from having rallies? Not just makes a joke about it. Who blocks traffic to keep people from attending a political rally? Who beat a person with a tire lock because they disagreed with their politics? If you can’t see the comparison you are being willfully blind, historically illiterate or both. I am voting for choice number 3.

            2. Hint Trump made a joke. Antifa has actually used violence to interrupt their political opponents rallies. What did the SA do? Why use violence to break up opponents rallies.

            3. “…all encouraged by a raving idiot on a podium…”

              Translation from brain-dead to English:
              ‘It’s Trump’s fault!!!!!!!!!!!’

        2. Cytotoxic is just one of your other socks Jeff.

        3. “All of you brown shirts can’t decide who I am impersonating”

          Hi very stupid sockpuppet, I realize you’re very stupid widdle baby, but no one accused you of impersonating anyone.

          You’re a SOCKPUPPET. Learn what words mean.

        4. A case of the stain calling the shirt brown.

    3. https://reason.com/2020/01/01/trumps-inartful-dodges/#comment-8068480

      JesseAZ (future Trump appointee-judge to the SCROTUS) has already solved this conundrum for us… Neither the USA Constitution, nor the Congress, may stand in the way of the Trumptatorship!

      With reference to Trump, JesseAZ says…
      “He is not constitutionally bound on any actions he performed.”

      See? NOT bound on ANY actions!!!

      1. I didn’t read anything you wrote, but I do hope you die before February 2020

      2. Do you know what performed is? It is a past tense on the actions he has already taken. It is not a comment on future actions he may take.

        Is English your first language? Or just stupid?

        You also ignored the rest of the comment, why?

      3. This is literally the contextual quote:

        “First there were no illegal commands. He is not constitutionally bound on any actions he performed.”

        He performed his actions as described in the constitution. There were no bounds on the actions discussed in that thread. The legislative branch can not bound his constitutional powers per Perry v Texas. The entire thread was you making a claim that Congress could modify one of the Executives constitutional powers with their own legal modifiers, which is simply not true.

        Are you off your meds sqrsly?

        1. “He is not constitutionally bound on any actions he performed.”

          How is that different from saying, everything he has done up to now, he was allowed to do, in total disregard of the USA Constitution?

          Past v/s future, whoop-deee-dooo!!! “Precedent for the President”, now, according to future SCROTUS Judge JesseAZ, Stable Genius Junior, will mean that, since, in the past, the Trumptatorship was able to act in total disregard of the USA Constitution, the future will be a continuation of the past!

          WHY do we still bother swearing in the new POTUS, and paying ceremonial obeisance to the USA Constitution? Should we all simply swear obedience to the Trumptatorship instead? That would be more honest and direct!

          1. Holy shit you’re fucking dumb.

            Constitution says president has the power to do x. President does x. He is not bounded by other conditions on x, ie unbounded but further conditions.

            An example of a bounded power is his appointment power which is bounded by consent of the Senate. His power is predicated on a constitutionally defined condition.

            You’re seriously fucking retarded sqrsly.

            1. “He is not constitutionally bound on any actions he performed.”

              Can JesseAZ admit ANY error at ALL? Can JesseAZ admit that this was an ERROR, to make such a broad-deep-and-wide overgeneralization? Can JesseAZ APOLOGIZE, in the form of saying, “I can see why a reader would assume that the USA Constitution falls under Trump, instead of vice versa, in my mind, reading such a brash overgeneralization of mine. I take it BACK! Trump falls under the USA Constitution, and NOT vice versa!”

              Can you DO it, Jesse? Can you slow the SLIGHTEST bit of humility? I am hoping and praying for you, Jesse, for your own good, that you CAN! Or do you genuinely and truly believe that the USA Constitution falls under Trump?

              1. I literally just wrote the exact same argument as that thread sqrsly.

                What dont you still understand? I even gave you a court case to go read.

                There is dumb and then there is you tripling down on dumb.

                1. “He is not constitutionally bound on any actions he performed.”

                  Reminds me of ol’ Prez Clinton and “there is no controlling legal authority above me”. Clinton-Gore logic!

                  https://www.nationalreview.com/2009/08/remember-no-controlling-legal-authority-andrew-c-mccarthy/

                  “Gore had no real defense, so he trotted out a phony one: There was, he infamously claimed, “no controlling legal authority.” What he meant was that there weren’t many court decisions interpreting the meaning of Section 607. It was laughable. The rule of thumb for judges, as for the rest of us, is that laws are construed to mean what they say, the ordinary, everyday understanding of the words. ”

                  Jesse, are you PROUD of not being able to apologize for EXAGGERATING to the clear point of LYING? I was actually hoping that you could do better! But, like Clinton, Gore, etc., there is “no legal, controlling authority” above you, nor God nor conscience, that forbids you from LYING! So you just keep right on doing it! Or… Do you REALLY believe that Trump Trumps the USA Constitution? I can see NO other plausible alternative!

          2. Hi Old Mex.

      4. Hey look you’re shitting up threads again drama llama

    4. Only idiots scream Emoluments. See above.

  2. “For example, if Trump’s financial records reveal that he is violating federal ethics laws while in office, then the committee may use that information to help fashion new laws that better target such presidential wrongdoing.”

    Ironically, Cummings is a slaver. He literally just said “we need to see if you’re violating any rules so we can make new rules.”

    Sorry, that will never fly.

    1. What happened to the standard of avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest? Trump is hopelessly compromised. His sudden reversal on N Syrian Kurds was one decision that made no sense, unless you take his Istanbul Trump Towers business into account. That is most certainly “an appearance of conflict.”

      1. So you are okay with open ended investigations?

        1. Into government offices? Yes.

          1. Because the people in government don’t deserve the same constitutional protection as the rest of us citizens?

      2. “What happened to the standard of avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest?”

        It never existed widdle baby. Ever.

        1. Idiot. It exists explicitly for all fed gov employees. It existed as a common standard for all agents of public trust, president included, up until Trump.

          https://www.oge.gov/web/OGE.nsf/Resources/Analyzing+Potential+Conflicts+of+Interest

          1. “It exists explicitly for all fed gov employees. It existed as a common standard for all agents of public trust, president included, up until Trump.”
            That’s an assertion, not a fact nor an argument, and you left out such scumbags as Obo and that hag.

        2. And the Ethics Reform Act covers the president too. And Trump is continually in violation of it.

          1. Proof not just accusations?

      3. It’s definitely in any public official’s best interest to minimize or to explain apparent conflicts of interest, but you don’t have to become a hermit to become President.

      4. “What happened to the standard of avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest?”

        Ask Obo and that hag.

    2. I would sincerely hope that, from a legal standpoint, their entire argument falls apart due to the words ‘if’ and ‘may.’ An argument based entirely on supposition seems the very definition of legislative overreach.

    3. My thoughts exactly. Even limp dick Roberts should be hard pressed to explain why this would be constitutional.

    4. I’m more worried that they House is attempting to counter the Executive Branch’s “This is a fishing expedition to dig up dirt on the President.” argument by using the “We want to launch a fishing expedition to dig up dirt on the the President.” offense.

      I mean, could you at least try to come up with a more even-handed way to say that? I expect more out of my Top Men. This is Lower-Middle Men level effort.

  3. >>if Trump’s financial records reveal that he is violating federal ethics laws while in office

    specious. and perfect for Roberts he loves that shit.

  4. Do you want a president or a king?
    Pretty simple.

    1. Do you want equal branches, or to allow open ended fishing expedition by the legislative branch whenever the wrong party is in the executive branch? How is allowing the president to keep some of his records private, unless the legislative branch can show a compelling reason (“we might look at legislation based on what we find, maybe” is not a compelling reason) that they need it, making a king?

      1. They are arguing for a parliament but only found whatever segment of congress Democrats control. They believe on legislative supremacy.

    2. Actually that’s pretty dumb.

      It wouldn’t make Trump a King.

      1. Having Trump’s personal, private lawyer helping deciding matters of State, through hidden back channels, instead of having appointed officials helping in making the decisions “officially”, is a serious move from a POTUS towards a King, instead!

        1. So, since this has been going on for two centuries plus, when is the coronation happening? Such a vapid statement.

          1. Go run to another fucking sock. You’ve embarrassed yourself.

            1. Whoops. Meant for sqrsly. Apologies.

          2. Strictly whataboutism! Whatever has been happening all this time, must be OK! HOW are we going to reduce the size of Government Almighty, and increase the realm of personal freedom, with this kind of mentality?

            1. No, it is an example of well established precedence that no one had a problem with until Trump won the election. That is called a double standard.

            2. Also, since we don’t have a king, despite 200 years of this going on, the statement “make a king” is pure vapid, hyperbole.

        2. Foreign relations isnt a power of the Senate you raging dumbfuck. It is under the basis of the executive. He is not required to go solely through appointed channels. That has never been argued nor has it ever been followed. Can you get even ome basic premise correct?

          https://law.justia.com/constitution/us/article-2/32-the-conduct-of-foreign-relations.html

          Even obama set up back channels for advisors and non appointed officials in dealing with foreign matters. It is amazing how fucking stupid you continually prove yourself to be.

            1. Did Obummer do it with a PRIVATE LAWYER in order to hide his tracks?

              1. Your opinions about why Trump does things are not facts. Also, the voices in your head aren’t sources.

                1. Did Obummer do it with a PRIVATE OBUMMER LAWYER, for ANY reason at ALL? Using your own private lawyer STRONGLY hints that one might be trying to just barely skirt the written law! It is like hiring your own “ethics expert” to find “ethics loopholes”! Do you want your nation run by furtive weasels looking for loopholes, or do you want your nation run by honest, fair, above-ground dealers? Keep in mind, powers you grant to “R” today, will be exercised by “D” tomorrow, and vice versa!

                  What is YOUR source about the voices in my head? Did you tune that information in via your dental fillings, or your tin-foil hat?

                  1. Your wife talks in her sleep.

                    1. Granted, that was a good cum-back!

        3. Run to another sock sweetie.

        4. “” is a serious move from a POTUS towards a King, instead!””

          Makes me think you don’t know what a King is.

          1. A King, in the old days, was what we call a dictator today… Beholden to NO written laws at ALL!

            And this is where the Trumptatorship, and Trumpistas, want to take us today! All Hail Trump!

            1. “…And this is where the Trumptatorship, and Trumpistas, want to take us today!..”
              You.
              Are.
              Full.
              Of.
              Shit.

  5. What the hell? How is this a “major Constitutional clash” or even a case meriting a hearing before the Court? This is such a trivially simple case that the Court should just have issued a per curiam and been done with it. After all, I have it on good authority that Congress has an absolute right to issue subpoenas and it’s an impeachable offense for the executive to even resist being responsive to the subpoena. And if noted Constitutional authorities like Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi can’t be trusted to know such simple facts about Congress’ subpoena powers, well, my faith in what I know about the world has just been rocked to its very foundations.

    1. SCOTUS had better consider that, if they do side with Congress they themselves will be equally subject to such exploratory subpoena.

  6. I really don’t know where the SC has any jurisdiction here. The Constitution doesn’t cover this does it? If not it defaults on the Bill of Rights 10th amendment and to the States….

    The States are the final determinator of Federal legislation not the SC.

    1. I think the 4A applies here. At least in spirit. A government demanding private records for a fishing expedition seems to violate the 4A and quite probably the 5th in spirit.

  7. if Trump’s financial records reveal that he is violating federal ethics laws while in office, then the committee may use that information to help fashion new laws

    I saw this as an illegal fishing expedition long before I came to that part of the article. If they suspect Trump is our of line, come up with some “probable cause” and subpoena on a warrant BASED ON PROBABLE CAUSE and clearly stating WHAT is sought, and WHERE it is to be found.

    WHen someone comes up with some smoke, or a tinkling bell, or some other such solid evidence. THEN you know which fishing hole to drop the hook with the correct bait on it.

    1. Yes.
      This is but one more trawling effort, hoping there might be something somewhere which would allow the Ds to overturn an election they lost.

    2. Here’s a thought.
      Allow the fishing expedition but proactively declare the results as “fruit of the poisonous tree”, if the Congress tried use the results to charge the president with any malfeasance.
      This would be due to the dishonest reasons given for the search.
      If they want to use the information to pass new legislation, it would be covered by ex post facto laws or bills of attainder, and unable to be used except against subsequent presidents.

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  9. Hey Damon, subpoenas don’t get squashed, they get quashed.

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