WASHINGTON _ The case of the Democrats in the House about the reallocation of government funds by the Trump administration to help pay for a border wall between the United States and Mexico was picked up by a federal appeals court in Washington.
The lawsuit accused President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by proceeding with his wall without congressional approval and using funds that Congress had set aside for other purposes. On Friday a jury of three appeals court judges overturned a lower court decision that the House lacked standing to challenge the transfer of funds.
“The executive branch has, in a word, snatched the House key from its hands,” Judge David Sentelle wrote in a 24-page ruling. “The strict constitutional rule is that the executive branch cannot spend until both the House and Senate say so.”
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The legal battle stems from a dispute over the financing of the wall that led to the closure of the government in early 2019. After Congress refused to appropriate the funds the White House had requested to build the wall, Trump declared a ‘ national emergency and has allocated a total of 8.1 billion dollars for the project, largely destined for other purposes, such as the fight against organized crime.
The House said the Trump administration violated the Constitution’s appropriations clause by making a final run around Congress to fund the wall, one of the campaign promises of the president’s signature.
The court decision in favor of the Chamber is unlikely to interfere with the construction of the border wall anytime soon. During the summer, another appeals court ruled against the government allocating funds to pay for the wall. But in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected a request from Trump’s opponents to halt construction as the litigation continued.
The dispute is part of a series of legal disputes between Trump and Congress over the extent of executive authority. The House also sued to force former White House adviser Don McGahn to testify before Congress, challenging the White House’s claim that it has total immunity from such subpoenas.
That court battle seemed settled in August, when the entire list of appellate judges in Washington ruled that Congress has the legitimacy to sue the executive branch. But the case was sent back to a smaller panel, which found a different basis for dismissing the lawsuit. The Chamber promised to ask for another reversal in the appeals court.
Donald Trump’s attorneys were greeted with skepticism by federal appeals court judges as they made their latest attempt to prevent New York prosecutors from getting their hands on his tax and other financial documents through a subpoena from the grand jury.
“Are you asking us to change the way grand juries have done their job since time immemorial just because we’re dealing with someone who is the president of the United States?” US circuit judge Robert Katzmann asked Trump’s attorney William Consovoy in a hearing on Friday. The case is heard by a panel of three judges of the court.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is seeking eight years of president’s fees and other financial documents as part of a jury investigation examining issues, including payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.
The appeal is before the Manhattan courthouse for the second time, after the US Supreme Court in July rejected Trump’s argument that, as president, he has extensive immunity from state criminal investigation. A Trump attorney in the previous appeal argued that the president would not be prosecuted while in office if he remedied his famous boast of being able to shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue without losing supporters.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Trump could assert tighter defenses against the subpoena of his Mazars USA accountants. US District Judge Victor Marrero subsequently dismissed Trump’s arguments that the subpoena was overly broad and issued in bad faith to harass him, leading to a new appeal.
“If I had to look for the definition of a ‘fishing expedition’, this is it,” Consovoy said of the subpoena on Friday, urging the judges to overturn Marrero’s ruling.
But US Circuit Judge Pierre Leval called Consovoy’s “highly contrived” claim that Vance’s use of a subpoena modeled after that issued by a Congressional committee showed that the prosecutor was simply looking for to harass Trump. Carey Dunne, an attorney for Vance’s office, told judges that prosecutors used the Congressional subpoena to Mazars as a model to make company compliance easier and more efficient.
The judges also questioned Consovoy’s argument that the grand jury investigation was limited to 2016 hidden cash payments and did not include other possible crimes, including potential tax and insurance fraud. “Grand juries, as you know, have extensive authority to do their job,” Katzmann told the lawyer.
Consovoy said the president was not looking for special treatment, just “the basic protections that all other citizens receive”.
Vance has avoided publicly describing the scope of the investigation, citing grand jury secrecy laws. But Dunne said his office made it clear the investigation isn’t limited to 2016 payments.
The appeal was heard on an accelerated schedule, which means a decision could come before the November 3 elections. Grand jury secrecy laws make it unlikely that Trump’s tax returns will be made public by Vance before then. And the president risks asking the Supreme Court for review if he loses.
(c) Bloomberg 2020 News
Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTOS (for assistance with images, contact 312-222-4194):
Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.