Trump v. Mazars USA Llp

140 S.Ct. 2019 (2020)


The House issued two subpoenas seeking the financial information of the President, his children, their immediate family members, and several affiliated business entities. Specifically, the subpoena seeks any document related to account activity, due diligence, foreign transactions, business statements, debt schedules, statements of net worth, tax returns, and suspicious activity identified by Deutsche Bank. The second, issued to Capital One, demanded similar financial information with respect to more than a dozen business entities associated with the President. The Deutsche Bank subpoena requests materials from “2010 through the present,” and the Capital One subpoena covers “2016 through the present,” but both subpoenas impose no time limitations for certain documents, such as those connected to account openings and due diligence. They issued these subpoenas pursuant to House Resolution 206, which called for “efforts to close loopholes that allow corruption, terrorism, and money laundering to infiltrate our country’s financial system.” Such loopholes, the resolution explained, had allowed “illicit money, including from Russian oligarchs,” to flow into the United States through “anonymous shell companies” using investments such as “luxury high-end real estate.” The Committee intended to review banking regulation and “examine the implementation, effectiveness, and enforcement” of laws designed to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. More Committees issued an identical subpoena to Deutsche Bank as part of an investigation into foreign efforts to undermine the U. S. political process. That Committee was examining alleged attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 election; potential links between Russia and the President’s campaign; and whether the President and his associates had been compromised by foreign actors or interests. The 'Committee' planned “to develop legislation and policy reforms to ensure the U. S. government is better positioned to counter future efforts to undermine our political process and national security.” They sent a subpoena to the President’s personal accounting firm, Mazars USA, LLP. The subpoena demanded information related to the President and several affiliated business entities from 2011 through 2018, including statements of financial condition, independent auditors’ reports, financial reports, underlying source documents, and communications between Mazars and the President or his businesses. The subpoena also requested all engagement agreements and contracts “without regard to time.” 

Chairman Elijah Cummings explained the basis for the subpoena in a memorandum to the Oversight Committee. According to the chairman, recent testimony by the President’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, along with several documents prepared by Mazars and supplied by Cohen, raised questions about whether the President had accurately represented his financial affairs. Chairman Cummings asserted that the Committee had “full authority to investigate” whether the President: (1) “may have engaged in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office,” (2) “has undisclosed conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions,” (3) “is complying with the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” and (4) “has accurately reported his finances to the Office of Government Ethics and other federal entities.” The President and his family and companies opposed the subpoenas. They contended that the subpoenas lacked a legitimate legislative purpose and violated the separation of powers. The President did not claim executive privilege. The President asked for declaratory judgments and injunctions preventing Mazars and the banks from complying with the subpoenas. The House committees intervened to defend the subpoenas. The House prevailed on all the challenges. The Court of Appeals found that the subpoena served a “valid legislative purpose” because the requested information was relevant to reforming financial disclosure requirements for Presidents and presidential candidates. Or they were adequately related to potential legislation on money laundering, terrorist financing, and the global movement of illicit funds through the real estate market. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in both cases and stayed the judgments below pending our decision.