Wait, WHAT NOW With Those Trump Financials Subpoenas?
Last Monday, DC District Court Judge Amit Mehta kicked Trump's ass and told him to STFU with those made-up legal theories about why it is ILLEGAL for Congress to investigate the president's financials. Trump's longtime accountants at Mazars, LLP could hand over Trump's records immediately, and the court was not going to impose a stay. Then, on Wednesday, Judge Edgardo Ramos in the Southern District of New York agreed that Donald Trump doesn't get to psychoanalyze Congress's reasons for conducting oversight and block it if their motives are "impure." Because no, that is not how Congress goes, asshole. No stay was issued in New York either, and Deutsche Bank was ordered to begin handing over Trump's data immediately.
SO, WE CAN HAZ DOCUMENTS? Well, no, we're not getting Trump's docs yet. Sorry. But before we all launch into another dozen choruses of DEMS ARE JUST SOFT, perhaps a little lawsplainer on what happened here might come in handy.
The losing party -- that would be Loser McLoserman Donald J. Trump -- has the right to ask for emergency stays of Judge Mehta's ruling from the DC Circuit and of Judge Ramos's ruling from the Second Circuit. He could also ask for a stay from the Supreme Court, and Trump is extremely fond of muddying the waters by asking SCOTUS to jump in before the appellate courts have had a chance to rule. If one of these courts agreed to stop the clock to litigate the propriety of a stay, it would likely delay the inevitable appeal on the issues themselves. That is, we could be forced to argue about the issue of the emergency stay, and then argue at some later date about whether Congress is entitled to subpoena the documents at all. God only knows how long that might take, hence ... the compromise.
In both the Mazars and Deutsche Bank cases, all parties have agreed to skip the intermediate "stay round" and go directly to an appeal on the issue of congressional oversight. Lawyers for House Democrats agreed to give up their right to demand documents immediately if the courts agreed to an expedited hearing schedule on their right to see them at all, and the DC Circuit obliged by setting a date for the Mazars hearing on July 12. Trump agreed to give up the potential delay of a couple months it might get from a stay motion in exchange for a promise that Congress wouldn't seek to get the documents immediately. Take it from Steve Vladeck -- this really does make sense.
Yes, it would be entirely satisfying if Deutsche Bank and Mazars just dropped the documents in House Democrats' laps immediately. But ... first of all, there's always the chance that Trump could get some court to issue an injunction, simultaneously depriving Congress of the information and taking the pressure off the appeals court to rule quickly. (And if one court issued an injunction, the existence of a "circuit split" between the courts might give SCOTUS pretext to intervene to stop both cases when there is really no issue of law.) Second of all, this shit is not going away. Trump has made it clear he's going to defy all congressional subpoenas, and we need a final ruling on the merits to clarify that his argument -- that CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT IS ILLEGAL -- is bullshit. Third of all, literally everyone here knows Trump is going to lose -- the issue is when, not if.
Okay, maybe Trump thinks he's going to win because of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. But he's an idiot, so don't go by him. The very best SCOTUS could do for Trump is to issue a stay pending an appeal on the merits and let him drag this out through the election, which House Democrats just avoided by getting Trump to agree not to ask for one right now. (Yes, Trump will inevitably ask for another emergency stay from SCOTUS after the Second and DC Circuits have ruled. But he would have done that anyway, even if he hadn't agreed to forego the "stay round" in the Districts.)
Get it? This is a calculated decision to give up a small chance of getting the documents now to avoid a big risk that Congress won't get them at all before the election. Agree or disagree with the math, but don't say this is Democrats being too chickenshit to take on Trump. Because that ain't it, chief.
Besides which, once Cuomo signs that New York law, Congress is going to get Trump's New York state returns almost immediately. That train has already left the station.
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