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Case Name Trump v. Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives PR-DC-0016
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-01136-APM ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection Take Care
Case Summary
On April 22, 2019, President Donald Trump (in his capacity as a private citizen) and various Trump business entities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Representative Elijah E. Cummings (in his official capacity as Chairman of the House Committee on ... read more >
On April 22, 2019, President Donald Trump (in his capacity as a private citizen) and various Trump business entities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Representative Elijah E. Cummings (in his official capacity as Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform), Peter Kenny (in his official capacity as Chief Investigative Counsel of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform), and Mazars USA LLP (President Trump’s personal accountant). The plaintiffs alleged that a subpoena issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform (Committee) on April 15, 2019 to Mazars seeking financial records and information from 2011 through 2018 was unenforceable because it had no legitimate legislative purpose. They sought a declaration under the Declaratory Judgment Act (28 U.S.C. § 2201) that the subpoena was invalid and unenforceable; a permanent injunction to quash the subpoena and prevent the committee from enforcing or using it in any way; a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Mazars from producing any information related to the subpoena; and reasonable costs and expenses including attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel. The case was assigned to Judge Amit P. Mehta.

The plaintiffs alleged that the subpoena was part of a coordinated, politically-motivated campaign organized by the Democratic Party to “expose Plaintiffs’ private financial information for the sake of exposure, with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President now and in the 2020 election.” Both parties seemed to agree that the subpoena was motivated in part by the testimony of Michael Cohen (Trump’s former personal lawyer) to the Committee on February 27, 2019, which Plaintiffs also deemed a “partisan stunt” conducted “under the guise of [an] investigation.” During his testimony, Cohen had alleged that financial statements prepared by the President’s accountants falsely represented the President’s assets and liabilities. The plaintiffs claimed that, because the subpoena threatened to expose the plaintiffs’ confidential information and lacked “a legitimate legislative purpose,” the court had the power to declare the subpoena invalid and enjoin its enforcement.

On the same day they filed their complaint, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent Mazars from turning over any documents to the Committee. They also filed an emergency motion to shorten the time that the defendants had to respond to the motion for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction. On April 23, 2019 the parties met and set a briefing schedule on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, which rendered the emergency motion and motion for a temporary restraining order moot. The plaintiffs also consented to the Committee’s intervention as a defendant and entered a joint stipulation a few days later agreeing to dismiss Chairman Cummings and Mr. Kenny as defendants without prejudice. The Committee agreed to postpone its return date on the subpoena to Mazars until seven days after the court ruled on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

On May 9, 2019 the court notified the parties that the trial on the merits of the case would be consolidated with the hearing on the preliminary injunction. 2019 WL 2063207. Oral argument went ahead as scheduled on May 14.

On May 20, 2019 the court issued an opinion entering judgement in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the plaintiffs. 380 F. Supp. 3d 76. The court explained that Congress has broad investigative authority (playing an important “informing” function, but confined by constitutional structures and Supreme Court precedent), and that courts tasked with deciding whether Congress has used its investigative power improperly must be highly deferential to the legislative branch. The court found that the legislative reasons offered by the Committee adequately justified the subpoena (and noted that the Committee had identified several pieces of actual legislation that it asserted was related to its overall investigation of the President), and that the plaintiffs’ contentions as to why those reasons were invalid were not persuasive. It also declined to grant a request made by the plaintiffs at the oral argument seeking to stay the return date of the subpoena beyond the seven days already agreed upon by the parties, pending final appellate review by the D.C. Circuit.

The defendants appealed the court’s ruling on May 21, 2019; a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments on July 12. On October 11, 2019, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, explaining that the court’s analysis “must be highly deferential to the legislative branch.” Further, since the subpoena was directed not at the President but at a third party (Mazars), this case did not directly raise separation of powers concerns. 940 F.3d 710.

On November 13, 2019, the D.C. Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc; on November 18, United States Chief Justice John Roberts stayed the D.C. Circuit’s ruling pending appeal before the United States Supreme Court. The Court heard oral arguments in this case, consolidated with Trump v. Deutsche Bank, on May 12, 2020. The United States, in addition to filing an amicus brief, was granted leave to appear as amicus curiae and to present oral arguments in support of the plaintiffs.

On July 9, 2020, the Supreme Court unanimously declined to enforce the congressional subpoenas. In a 7–2 opinion, the Court vacated the decision of the D.C. Circuit and remanded for further consideration. It explained that the lower courts had not adequately considered the separation of powers issues involved in the case and instructed the D.C. Circuit on remand to consider the following:
  1. Availability of information: if the information sought was readily available elsewhere, courts should not enforce a congressional subpoena of the President’s personal information.
  2. Breadth: courts “should insist on a subpoena no broader than reasonably necessary to support Congress’s legislative objective.”
  3. Congress’s evidence for why it needed a subpoena: “The more detailed and substantial the evidence of Congress’s legislative purpose, the better,” especially if the intended legislation pertained to the President.
  4. The burden placed on the President by a subpoena: because Congress “is a rival political branch,” courts should be wary of Congress’s “incentive to use subpoenas for institutional political advantage.”
“Other considerations may be pertinent as well,” the Court concluded, but “one case every two centuries does not afford enough experience for an exhaustive list.” 140 S. Ct. 2019.

As of August 17, 2020, the remand is pending before the D.C. Circuit.

Elise Coletta - 07/14/2019
Gregory Marsh - 08/17/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Plaintiff Type
Closely-held (for profit) corporation
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives
Mazars USA LLP
Plaintiff Description President Donald J. Trump (in his capacity as a private citizen); The Trump Organization, Inc.; Trump Organization LLC; The Trump Corporation; DJT Holdings LLC; The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust; Trump Old Post Office LLC.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/22/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PR-NY-0009 : Trump v. Deutsche Bank (S.D.N.Y.)
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:19-cv-01136 (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/21/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-DC-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 25] (2019 WL 2063207) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0016-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/09/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 35] (103 Fed.R.Serv.3d 1066) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0016-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/20/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 1810450] (940 F.3d 710)
PR-DC-0016-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/11/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioners
PR-DC-0016-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/03/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Opinion (140 S.Ct. 2019)
PR-DC-0016-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/09/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
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Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0004
Mehta, Amit Priyavadan (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0002 | PR-DC-0016-0003 | PR-DC-0016-9000
Millett, Patricia Ann (D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Rao, Neomi Jehangir (D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Roberts, John Glover Jr. (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0004
Tatel, David S. (D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Consovoy, William S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0001 | PR-DC-0016-0006 | PR-DC-0016-9000
Norris, Cameron T. (Virginia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Passantino, Stefan Charles (Georgia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Strawbridge, Patrick (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Barbero, Megan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006 | PR-DC-0016-9000
Bernstein, Jerry Daniel (New York) show/hide docs
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Fan, Dennis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Francisco, Noel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Freeman, Mark R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hanner, Brooks Mckinly (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Joshi, Sopan (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Letter, Douglas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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McIntosh, Scott R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Mooppan, Hashim M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Morse, Josephine T (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Schuelke, Henry F. III (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Sinzdak, Gerard (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Tatelman, Todd B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Wall, Jeffrey B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Wechsler, Lawrence H (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Cox, Duane Morley (Utah) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006 | PR-DC-0016-9000
Gorod, Brianne J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Phatak, Ashwin P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006
Wydra, Elizabeth B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0016-0006

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