Congress Can Seek Trump’s Financial Records, Appeals Court Rules

Mr. Cohen also testified before Congress that Mr. Trump routinely changed the value of his assets for different financial purposes, like inflating their value for loan applications but deflating them for taxes. (Mr. Cohen was separately convicted of lying to Congress in earlier testimony.)

In making the request for documents and then issuing the subpoena, Mr. Cummings said that Congress was trying to determine whether the president had broken laws, but he also said that lawmakers were trying to decide whether to update financial disclosure laws.

Mr. Trump’s legal team, which sued Mazars to obtain a court order blocking it from complying with the subpoena, argued that this meant the committee was effectively attempting to carry out a criminal investigation. That, they argued, was an executive branch job, not a legislative one, and so the House’s subpoena was invalid.

But Judge Tatel wrote that Supreme Court precedent granted broad authority to Congress to issue subpoenas for information that could be used to enact new laws — even if it could also be useful as criminal evidence — and imposed no requirement on lawmakers to say that legislation was their specific purpose. In any case, he also wrote, Mr. Cummings had made reference to investigating whether new legislation was necessary.

“We conclude that the public record reveals legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose, behind the committee’s subpoena,” he wrote.

Judge Rao disagreed, noting that lawyers for the House, led by their counsel Douglas Letter, had relied only on the House’s normal oversight powers in support of the subpoena, and arguing that permitting lawmakers to pursue such information without an impeachment inquiry would make it too easy to harass the presidency.

“When the House chooses to investigate the president for alleged violations of the laws and the Constitution, it must proceed through impeachment, an exceptional and solemn exercise of judicial power established as a separate check on public officials,” she wrote.