SCOTUS Opinion: Court Sets Forth Standard For Congress To Subpoena President Trump’s Financial Records

Three different House committees issued subpoenas to President Trump’s accountant and two banks seeking information about his finances and his businesses. Trump fought the subpoenas, arguing that the subpoenas violated the separation of powers and were not linked to a valid legislative purpose, but he did not claim executive privilege. The DC and Second Circuits both declined to stop the subpoenas, ruling that the subpoenas served valid legislative purposes.

The Court, in a 7-2 ruling authored by Chief Justice Roberts, reversed, holding that the Circuit courts did not adequately account for the “significant separation of powers concerns” implicated by the subpoenas. The Court crafted a four-part test for future courts to address such subpoenas through: (1) that Congress cannot seek the President’s personal information if other sources could provide information Congress needs to pursue its legislative objective; (2) the subpoena has to be no broader than reasonably necessary to fulfill Congress’ legislative objective; (3) the courts should be satisfied that Congress’ subpoena advances a valid legislative purpose; and (4) courts should assess the burden created by the subpoena. The Court allowed that other considerations may also apply. Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that Congress “has no power to issue a legislative subpoena for [the President’s] private, unofficial documents” unless as part of an impeachment investigation. Justice Alito also dissented, arguing that Congress must provide a more thorough explanation of the legislation being considered, and spell out its authority for seeking the information, than it has so far.

A link to the opinion in Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP is here: