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Last week, we told you about a hearing that was to happen today, the first major court test in the war between Congress and the Trump administration over whether Congress is actually a co-equal branch of government that's allowed to do things. It was regarding the lawsuit Trump and his company filed against their own accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to keep it from complying with Elijah Cummings and the House Oversight Committee's lawful subpoena of Trump financial records and tax records. It's a legitimate subpoena, not least because Congress absolutely 100 percent has the power to conduct investigations and oversight, and also because this specifically goes to the question of whether the president has committed crimes, has unlawfully benefitted from his office, and that little nagging question of whether he is under the influence of a FUCKING HOSTILE FOREIGN POWER.

The DC district court judge on the case, Amit Mehta, had signaled that he was already done with this shit, would hear the case on a fast-tracked schedule, and that he would be ready to rule at the end of the hearing today. Ultimately, he decided not to do that, but assured all parties that he wasn't going to dilly-dally either. Let's pencil his ruling in for next week, maybe?

The hearing was LIT, y'all. Trump's lawyers had argued in a filing yesterday that please, your honor, let's not fast-track this lawsuit, because -- we are not kidding -- they've just had a lot going on and couldn't possibly be ready to argue this case today. The judge heard that request and responded with judge words that read to our layman's ear like "LOL!"

Once they were off, you almost had to feel sorry for Trump's attorneys, because really, what the fuck were they going to say? But don't feel sorry for long, because they're the dinguses who agreed to represent President BrainStupid in the first place.


Trump attorney William Consovoy tried to argue that Congress isn't allowed to investigate the president at all, and almost seemed to imply that maybe the Watergate and the Whitewater investigations were both totally illegal. USA Today has a good run-down:

[Mehta] suggested history might not be on the president's side, saying courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880 [...]

Trump's personal lawyer, William Consovoy, argued repeatedly that Congress was seeking the president's financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose – which was outside its authority – rather to work on legislation. The subpoena sought Trump's financial records to look for inconsistencies in his financial disclosure forms, and whether he misstated his holdings for loans that could leave him beholden to foreigners.

"That is law enforcement," Consovoy said. "Are you complying with federal law?"

At one point, Mehta asked if Congress could investigate if the president was engaged in corrupt behavior in office.

"I don't think that's the proper subject of investigation as to the president," Consovoy said, although executive agencies could be investigated.

Mehta sounded incredulous

AS WOULD WONKETTE!

asking whether Congress could have investigated Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and Whitewater, which led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Consovoy initially said he'd had to look at the basis for those investigations.

"They were inquiring as to violations of criminal law," Mehta said. "It's pretty straightforward – among other things."

It's pretty fucking straightforward, among other things!

When Mehta asked if it would be wrong for Congress to investigate whether Trump (or any president!) might have a conflict of interest related to specific legislation, Consovoy said, "It would lack legitimate legislative purpose," because Congress is LAWMAKERS, not LAW ENFORCERS. (Of course, it's funny, because AG Bill Barr believes LAW ENFORCERS aren't allowed to even accuse sitting Republican presidents of crime. Funny how these things all work together!)

And so it went. We imagine Judge Mehta got really funny "what even the FUCK are you talking about" looks on his face throughout, as he tried to grapple with a lawyer who was literally arguing, against the Constitution and shitloads of Supreme Court precedent, that Congress's only job is to sit there and look cute and pass laws.

Clearly, and in general, Mehta just wasn't buying it:

Mehta [suggested] at one point that investigations of such financial violations are "strictly" under Congress' purview and that the courts have "very little, if any" discretion over Congress' asks.

"I almost wonder whether I have no role," Mehta told Consovoy at one point.

Lawyers for the House Oversight Committee were in the room, too, and though we wouldn't blame you if you assumed they just sat there giggling the whole time, they reportedly made their own arguments. House General Counsel Douglas Letter threw shade at Trump early and often, noting that Trump seems to view Congress as simply a "nuisance" that needs to GTFO of his way, and that he has a "total and basic and fundamental misunderstanding of the system that was set up by the Constitution." We think Letter was being too kind there, as "misunderstanding" seems to imply that the Orange Fuck-Knob attempted to understand, but just got it wrong. We have not seen evidence that his brain is capable of making it that far along in the process.

Mehta asked Letter what it would look like if Congress was overstepping its bounds:

Letter acknowledged [...] that hypothetically Congress might overstep by asking for the president's blood or for his diary as a 7-year-old.

DO NOT WANT! Honestly, we're worried that the people's exposure to both could constitute a public health hazard. That's pretty fuckin' funny, though, right?

Politico notes that, assuming Mehta rules in favor of Elijah Cummings and the Oversight Committee -- as we imagine he will -- it will "reinforce" another ruling from 2017, when House Republicans demanded and received records from Fusion GPS, the private intel firm that hired Christopher Steele to investigate Trump's ties to Russia. It's almost like there's some sort of constitutional principle at play here that's above partisan politics. HUH!

All in all, a very good hearing for House Democrats, and if this is a preview of what it's going to look like as Trump goes to court again and again to block Congress from doing its damn job, then at least we'll have something to laugh at over the next few months.

Now dears, you may have an OPEN THREAD.

[USA Today / Politico]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the senior editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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