WASHINGTON—A federal judge ruled that President Trump can’t block a subpoena from a House committee seeking financial records from his longtime accounting firm, a blow to his efforts to head off Democratic congressional investigators.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an appointee of President Obama, on Monday ruled House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) was on solid legal footing when he issued a subpoena to Mazars USA LLP. The subpoena sought eight years of financial statements and other records related to Mr. Trump, his real-estate company, his foundation and other entities belonging to the president.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Monday as he left Washington for Pennsylvania, criticized the ruling as “crazy” and “totally the wrong decision by obviously an Obama-appointed judge.”
Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Mr. Trump, said the president’s lawyers would file a “timely” notice of appeal.
The Mazars case represents the first of Trump’s attempts to thwart congressional subpoenas to be decided in court.
Judge Mehta ruled Congress had broad authority to conduct investigations.
“It is not unreasonable to think that the Mazars records might assist Congress in determining whether ethics statutes or regulations need updating to strengthen Executive Branch accountability, promote transparency, and protect against Executive Branch officials operating under conflicts of interest,” Judge Mehta wrote.
The judge also said the House Oversight Committee was acting with “facially valid legislative purposes, and it is not for the court to question whether the committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations.”
Mr. Cummings, the House oversight panel chair, in a statement Monday called the ruling a “resounding victory for the rule of law and our Constitutional system of checks and balances.”
“Congress must have access to the information we need to do our job effectively and efficiently, and we urge the President to stop engaging in this unprecedented cover-up and start complying with the law,” he said.
The judge’s ruling gives a victory to House Democrats, who have battled with the White House to obtain documents and testimony on several fronts. On Monday, Mr. Trump directed his former White House counsel Don McGahnto rebuff a congressional subpoenafor his testimony. The Treasury Department hasdeclined to turn overthe president’s tax returns in response to a subpoena from a congressional committee. And the White Househas refused to turn over documentsin response to an expansive request from the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating possible corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice by the president.
Intheir lawsuit, filed last month, lawyers for the Trump Organization said the committee’s subpoena threatened to expose the president’s “confidential information” and lacked “a legitimate legislative purpose.” They accused Democrats of using subpoenas as a political weapon against a president they don’t like, a claim Democrats denied.
Judge Mehta made clear in a hearing last week that he wasskeptical of the president’s position, noting that no Supreme Court case or major lower-court ruling since 1880 has found Congress had overstepped its bounds in issuing subpoenas.
Mr. Cummings, explaining the need for the subpoena, cited the testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who told the committee in February that Mr. Trumphad altered financial statementsfor his own benefit, at various times inflating or deflating his assets. Mr. Cohen turned over to the committee financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013, several of which were prepared by Mazars.
The committee had previously sought documents from Mazars on a voluntary basis, but was advised by an attorney for the company in March that it couldn’t turn over the documents without a subpoena.
Another lawsuit filed by the president’s lawyers to block a different congressional subpoena is pending. Mr. Trump, three of his children and his real-estate businesses last monthfiled a federal lawsuitto block
from complying with a subpoena from two House committees for documents related to him and his family.