US District Court Judge Mehta upholds subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Indian American judge Amit Mehta has upheld a subpoena from the US House of Representatives for President Donald Trump’s financial record, saying that Congress has the right to investigate potential illegal conduct of a president.
The subpoena seeking eight years of the president’s financial records was issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee to Mazars USA, an accounting firm representing Trump.
Mehta, a US District Court Judge, wrote: “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.”
He added, “Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office.”
The ruling on Monday by Mehta, who was nominated to the US District Court by President Obama, is a rebuke to Trump, whose legal team has indicated that it will appeal the ruling to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
Significantly, it is the first instance that a federal judge has intervened in the ongoing battle between Trump and the Congressional Democrats over the president’s records. Mehta’s ruling is likely to be cited in other similar cases.
Trump filed the lawsuit in April saying that efforts by the House Democrats amounted to political abuse of authority.
Mehta disagreed, writing: “[It] is not the court’s role to decipher whether Congress’s true purpose in pursuing an investigation is to aid legislation or something more sinister such as exacting political retribution.”
Here are some passages from Mehta’s ruling:
“History has shown that congressionally-exposed criminal conduct by the President or a high-ranking Executive Branch official can lead to legislation…
“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.
“The court is well aware that this case involves records concerning the private and business affairs of the President of the United States. But on the question of whether to grant a stay pending appeal, the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail.”
Mehta, who emigrated from India with his family when he a year old, earned his law degree from University of Virginia in 1997.