The more Donald Trump and his administration have fought to keep the president's finances hidden, the more congressional investigators have looked for ways to circumvent the barriers. A few weeks ago, this included a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars, to acquire materials on the president's financial history.
The Republican's lawyers sued in the hopes of blocking the subpoena and told a federal judge that Congress lacks the legal authority to scrutinize presidential misdeeds. To the surprise of no one, this effort failed spectacularly.
A federal judge in Washington D.C. on Monday ruled in favor of the House Oversight Committee's bid to obtain President Donald Trump's financial records from his accounting firm.U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who also denied Trump's request to stay his decision pending an appeal, said Congress was acting within its broad authority to investigate, rejecting arguments from Trump's attorneys who said the panel's probe, and subsequent document demands, served no legislative purpose.
"It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct -- past or present -- even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry," Mehta wrote.
The judge added, "Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history."
Trump's lawyers, hired specifically to keep his financial history hidden from public view, asked the judge to issue a stay, leaving the status quo in place while the matter is appealed. Mehta said no. Mazars now has seven days to comply with the ruling.
For his part, the president has already said his legal team will file an appeal anyway, taking the matter to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (It's chief judge, incidentally, is Merrick Garland). But that's not all Trump said in the wake of yesterday afternoon's ruling.
On the White House South Lawn yesterday, a reporter asked the president for his reaction, and it led to a rather amazing response:
"Well, we disagree with that ruling. It's crazy -- because you look at it; this never happened to any other president. They're trying to get a redo. They're trying to get what we used to call in school: a deal -- a 'do-over.' And if you look, you know, we had no collusion, we had no obstruction. We had no nothing."The Democrats were very upset with the Mueller report, as perhaps they should be. But, I mean, the country is very happy about it because there was never anything like that. And they're trying to get a redo, or a do-over, and you can't do that."As far as the financials are concerned, we think it's the wrong -- it's totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge. He was a recent Obama-appointed judge."
Let's take a minute to unpack this one:
1. The only "crazy" legal argument here is the one floated by Trump's lawyers.
2. The underlying legal questions have been tested by other presidents. In fact, yesterday's ruling emphasizes this point literally in the first sentence of the first page. (Trump's not much of a reader.)
3. There are a variety of questions about the president's controversial finances, but Trump's insistence that these lines of inquiry have something to do with the Mueller investigation is quite odd. It's as if Trump doesn't really understand the most basic elements of the congressional investigation.
4. Presidents have to honor court rulings, even if they hate the president who nominated the judge who issued the decision.
Other than that, Trump's little tantrum was fine.