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Federal appeals court rejects Trump's effort to shield his taxes

The decision means that unless the president appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, his accountants must turn over years of records to House investigators.
Image: Donald TrumpRecep Tayyip Erdogan
President Donald Trump during a news conference Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the East Room of the White House.Evan Vucci / AP

A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump's accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court.

On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena.

The decision means that unless Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can enforce its subpoena ordering the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to hand over any documents in its possession related to accounts of the Trump Organization dating to January 2009.

The subpoena was issued in March after the committee heard testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, alleging that Trump exaggerated his wealth when he sought loans.

Image: Jay Sekulow
Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for President Donald Trump pictured at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2015, praised the dissent filed against the court's refusal to hear an appeal of its ruling last month.Steve Helber / AP file

The appeals court had already put a seven-day hold on the legal effect of the ruling so Trump's attorneys could appeal. Jay Sekulow, one of the president's personal attorneys, said late Wednesday that "in light of the well reasoned dissent, we will be seeking review at the Supreme Court."

In a 2-1 vote, the three-judge appeals panel held last month that the subpoena served "legitimate legislative pursuits."

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"Contrary to the president's arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply," wrote Judge David Tatel, who was nominated to the court in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.

One of the three judges who dissented on Wednesday, Gregory G. Katsas, acknowledged that the subpoena wouldn't hinder "the president's need to secure candid advice from close governmental advisors," an argument often used by presidents to keep communications privileged.

But allowing this subpoena to be enforced against personal documents would create "an open season on the president's personal records," wrote Katsas, whom Trump appointed to the court in December 2017.

"This threat to presidential autonomy and independence is far greater than that presented by compulsory process issued by prosecutors in criminal cases" or even by private plaintiffs, he wrote.