House Democrats ask Supreme Court to let them get hold of Trump financial documents

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By Pete Williams  with NBC News Politics
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump attends an event on healthcare prices in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on Nov. 15, 2019.   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci AP file

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for a U.S. House committee urged the Supreme Court on Thursday not to block a subpoena directing Donald Trump's accounting firm to turn over several years' worth of financial documents.

It's likely to produce the first response by the Supreme Court to the growing number of legal battles over access to Donald Trump's financial secrets.

The Democratic majority on the House Oversight Committee issued the subpoena in April, ordering the accounting firm Mazars to turn over Trump-related financial documents covering 2011 through 2018. The committee said it acted after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified that "Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."

After lower courts rejected attempts to block the subpoena, President Donald Trump's lawyers urged the Supreme Court last week to keep it on hold while they prepare to appeal those rulings. Chief Justice John Roberts imposed a brief hold to allow lawyers on both sides to weigh in.

Trump's private lawyers contend that the House has no authority to subpoena records unless it seeks information for the purpose of writing laws. In this case, they said, the House is improperly acting as an investigative body in an action that implicates the president.

While they cast the dispute as one raising profound constitutional questions involving the separation of powers, the House said it is not seeking anything covered by official privilege or, in fact, anything directly from the president at all.

"There is no need for this court to make definitive pronouncements on the scope of Congress's power in a case in which its ruling will be so limited in application and consequence," the House said.

The House lawyers urged the court to lift the stay and let the subpoena take effect. But if the court is considering taking up the president's appeal, they urged the justices to impose an unusually fast timetable, with all legal briefs to be due by December 11. If that happened, the hold on the subpoena would remain in place until the court decided whether to hear and decide the case.

The court could also simply decline to take up the president's appeal, allowing the House to enforce its subpoena.