Since Senate Republicans denied Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a vote following the death of Antonin Scalia, the chief U.S. Circuit judge has maintained a fairly low profile. After his nomination officially expired in January 2017, Garland returned to the circuit without any public display of frustration, and to date, his most notable post-SCOTUS career decision was to recuse himself from reviewing the ethics complaints concerning accusations of sexual misconduct raised against Brett Kavanaugh during his nomination process.
But Garland may soon re-enter the political fray in an uncharacteristically high-profile manner. On Tuesday, President Trump’s attorneys filed to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Trump could not block a House Oversight Committee subpoena of his financial records, one of many recent efforts by the administration to interfere with the regulatory power of Congress. The appeal will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, headed by none other than Merrick Garland.
The court will review U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta’s decision to uphold the subpoena on the grounds that the House is within its rights to investigate the president’s suspicious behavior, even if lawmakers have not pursued an official impeachment inquiry. Mehta was not convinced by Trump’s lawyers, who argued that the Oversight Committee’s subpoena did not serve a relevant legislative function. In a 41-page opinion, Mehta wrote that Trump’s arguments had “fundamental” problems, and that “It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct.” The subpoena targets financial statements Trump had sent to his accountants at Mazars USA, in which he consistently exaggerated his assets — like adding 10 non-existent stories to Trump Tower and overstating his future revenue by as much as $72 million.
It’s possible that Garland may not hear the case, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to announce which judges will make up the three-person panel that will decide the appeal. But supporters of the president shouldn’t expect Republicans’ past treatment of Garland to color any possible decision by his court: Prior to his nomination fiasco, the judge was known as a consummate pro revered by both parties for his methodical opinions.