Congress

House brief on Trump’s ‘disdain’ kicks off what could be messy two weeks

Cases in D.C., New Orleans showcase tussle between branches of government

House Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings is leading a House effort to subpoena President Donald Trump’s financial records. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House told a federal appeals court Monday that President Donald Trump has “disdain” for congressional oversight ahead of action next week on the House’s efforts to subpoena his financial records from accounting firm Mazars USA. The brief sets the stage for what could be a messy couple of weeks legally on fights between Congress and the administration. 

“Mr. Trump’s disdain for the constitutionally based role of Congress in carrying out oversight of the Executive Branch, and for the specific investigations of the Oversight Committee at issue here, is not a basis for this Court to reverse the district court’s holding that the subpoena is valid and enforceable,” the brief stated.

House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., issued the subpoena to Mazars USA in April as part of the panel’s investigation into whether Trump committed financial crimes before he became president.

A federal judge in May held up the congressional subpoena seeking Trump’s financial record from the accounting firm, arguing that Congress is within its rights to investigate potential illegal behavior by a president — even without launching a formal impeachment inquiry.

The ruling was a blow to the president’s efforts to resist House Democrats’ investigations. In addition to upholding the Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta took the extra step of denying the president’s request for a stay pending appeal.

Monday’s brief from the committee urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold the previous ruling

“This Court should affirm that decision quickly so that the Oversight Committee’s legitimate investigation can proceed,” reads the brief.

The case is due for arguments on Friday, July 12.

Another health care case is up for oral arguments next week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will hear arguments on July 9 in a case in which officials in Texas and other states filed a lawsuit to strike down the entire 2010 health care law because Congress eliminated the penalty for not having individual health insurance as part of a 2017 tax overhaul. The Justice Department, which partially defended the law at first, now declines to do so.

The court has questioned whether the House and Democrat-led states can defend the 2010 health care law in a legal fight that threatens the landmark legislation. Last week the 5th Circuit asked specifically whether the states or the House have standing in the case — a sign the law could face strong headwinds in its latest test in the federal courts.

The Trump administration also has a court fight teed up for Tuesday, over a challenge from drug companies to the Trump administration’s rule that pharmaceutical advertisements include prices. And it’s in front of the same judge, Mehta. 

Drugmakers Merck, Eli Lilly and Amgen, along with the Association of National Advertisers, say that the administration has no legal authority to impose such requirements. They also say that the requirement has the potential to mislead consumers, as most people’s drug costs are different from the drug’s list price because of insurance.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — a former Eli Lilly executive — argues that the statutes for Medicare and Medicaid allow the government to pursue such a policy in the interest of good financial stewardship, and that consumers should have the right to know a drug’s price, even if they don’t wind up paying that amount.

The requirements are supposed to go into effect on July 9.

The plaintiffs have asked the judge to issue a stay to postpone the effective date. Judge Mehta is expected to issue some kind of decision ahead of the July 9 deadline.

Todd Ruger contributed to this report. 

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