Tax and Financial Records Case

House Oversight Committee-Mazars Case

Major Issue:  Whether President Trump can stop a House oversight committee from using a subpoena to obtain tax and financial records relating to him from his accountant, Mazars USA.

Case Status:  Awaiting a district court opinion.

Case Description:  On April 15, 2019, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform (“Oversight Committee”) subpoenaed documents from President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, requesting copies of Trump-related tax returns and other financial records over an eight-year period.  The request was made to advance committee investigations into the President’s financial and ethics disclosures, conflicts of interest, and compliance with the Constitution’s emoluments clause.  On April 22, 2019, President Trump filed suit in D.C. federal district court to quash the subpoena.  The suit named Mazars, House Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, and one of his staffers, but the latter two were later replaced by the Oversight Committee itself as an intervenor.

Procedural Posture:  On May 20, 2019, the district court upheld the House subpoena and dismissed the lawsuit.  President Trump appealed the district court’s decision.  On Oct. 11, 2019, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, and on Nov. 13, 2019, denied the President’s request for a rehearing en banc.  On Dec. 13, 2019, the Supreme Court granted the President’s petition to hear the case and stayed the House subpoena pending appeal.  On July 9, 2020, the Supreme Court held that presidents are not immune to congressional subpoenas and issued a 4-part test to evaluate congressional subpoenas seeking information related to the president.  The Supreme Court vacated the D.C. Circuit opinion and remanded the case to the appeals court for further proceedings.  On Aug. 31, 2020, the House and Trump counsel filed briefs requesting action by the D.C. Circuit on the case.  On Dec. 21, the House informed the D.C. Circuit that the Oversight Committee intended to reissue the Mazars subpoena in the new Congress in 2021.  On Dec. 30, the D.C. Circuit remanded the case to the district court.

On April 15, 2019, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform (“Oversight Committee”) subpoenaed documents from President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, requesting copies of Trump-related tax returns and other financial records.  On April 22, 2019, President Trump filed suit in D.C. federal district court to quash the subpoena.  D.C. District Court Judge Ahmit Mehta was assigned to Case No. 19-cv-1136.  The district court allowed the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to participate in the case as an amicus supporting the President.  On May 20, 2019, the district court dismissed the Trump complaint and upheld the House subpoena.  Trump v. Committee on Oversight & Reform of U.S. House of Representatives, 380 F. Supp. 3d 76 (D.D.C. 2019), aff’d sub nom. Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, 940 F.3d 710 (D.C. Cir. 2019).  President Trump appealed the district court’s decision.

On May 21, 2019, President Trump appealed the district court decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  A D.C. Circuit 3-judge panel, with Judges Millett, Rao and Tatel, was assigned to Case No. 19-5142.  Two amici filed briefs in the case, including the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) which supported the President.  On Oct. 11, 2019, the DC Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the district court ruling, upheld the House subpoena, and dismissed the Trump complaint.  The dissenting opinion was filed by Judge Rao.  A request for a rehearing en banc was denied. Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, 940 F.3d 710 (D.C. Cir. 2019), reh’g en banc denied, 941 F.3d 1180 (D.C. Cir.), mandate stayed, No. 19A545, 2019 WL 6328115 (U.S. Nov. 25, 2019).  

After the Supreme Court vacated the D.C. Circuit opinion, issued an opinion creating a new 4-part test for evaluating congressional subpoenas seeking information related to the president, and remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit for further proceedings, the House and President Trump filed briefs with the same 3-judge panel seeking action on the case.  The House asked the court to enforce the Mazars subpoena, while President Trump asked the court to remand the case to the district court.  The D.C. Circuit held oral argument on Oct. 20, 2020.  On Dec. 21, 2020, the House informed the court that the Oversight Committee planned to reissue the Mazars subpoena in the new Congress in 2021.  On Dec. 30, the D.C. Circuit remanded the case to the district court.

On Nov. 15, 2019, President Trump filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking an emergency stay of the House subpoena and review of the D.C. Circuit opinion dismissing his complaint.  DOJ filed an amicus brief in support of the President.  The House opposed the petition.  Mazars waived its right to submit filings in the case.  On Nov. 18, 2019, the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay on the subpoena pending review of the petition.  On Nov. 25, 2019, the Supreme Court extended the stay.  On Dec. 13, 2019, the Supreme Court granted the petition to hear the case and consolidated the case with two others involving government subpoenas directed to third parties to produce tax and financial records related to President Trump. 

On July 9, 2020, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that presidents are not immune to congressional subpoenas, found that federal courts have jurisdiction to resolve interbranch subpoena disputes, and issued a new 4-part test to evaluate congressional subpoenas seeking information related to the president.  The Supreme Court vacated the D.C. Circuit opinion and remanded the case to the appeals court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

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