the law

Trump Had a Bad Day in the Courts

Put a big L on the president’s forehead for his Friday court dates. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

While none of the decisions were completely dispositive, we know Donald Trump interprets virtually every event — every sparrow that falls to the ground — as a personal W or L. So he probably wasn’t happy today at three adverse developments in federal court.

Arguably the largest, given his effort to hide his many tracks, was a decision by a three-judge panel of the nation’s most important appeals court, as the New York Times reports:

President Trump’s accounting firm must comply with a House committee’s demands for eight years of his financial records, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday in a major victory for House Democrats in their struggle against his vow to stonewall “all” of their oversight subpoenas.

In a 66-page ruling, the panel rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that Congress had no legitimate legislative authority to seek his business records from the firm, Mazars USA, because the committee was trying to determine whether he broke existing laws — not weighing whether to enact a new one.

“Having considered the weighty issues at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,” wrote Judge David S. Tatel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

A Republican-appointed judge on the panel dissented, saying the subpoena exceeded Congress’s legislative powers. The administration will almost certainly appeal the ruling either to the full D.C. Circuit or to the Supreme Court. But it could face more headwinds since the courts may give greater deference to Congress’s subpoena powers now that it is formally engaged in an impeachment inquiry.

The records the House Oversight Committee is seeking, be it noted, include closely guarded Trump tax records.

Team Trump also experienced two legal setbacks on the president’s signature immigration turf. It was hit with a bicoastal double whammy against the administration’s efforts to block immigration via an expanded notion of what constitutes a “public charge” — a burden on U.S. taxpayers. NBC News explains:

Federal judges in New York and California on Friday ordered a nationwide block in cases challenging a Trump administration policy that would make it far easier for the government to deny legal status to immigrants who use or are deemed likely to use public assistance. The rule was set to go into effect next week.

Judge George B. Daniels, of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, ordered preliminary injunctions Friday afternoon in two related cases against the administration’s new “public charge” rule that could have denied legal permanent residency and other forms of legal status to many immigrants in the country who are deemed likely to use public assistance …

Later on Friday afternoon, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton issued a preliminary injunction in a case announced by California attorney general Xavier Becerra. California was joined by Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., in the lawsuit.

In the California decision, Hamilton wrote that the counties and states had demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm “based on their loss of Medicaid funding from the federal government and increased operational costs they are likely to carry.”

For dessert in this judicial three-course meal of bad chow, Trump had another setback to his efforts to divert federal funds to pay for the border wall that Congress has refused to finance to his satisfaction. Politico has the story:

Another federal judge ruled against President Donald Trump’s unorthodox plan to use billions of dollars in federal funds to extend the wall on the Mexican border, despite Congress’s refusal to appropriate money for that purpose.

El Paso, Texas–based U.S. District Court Judge David Briones’s Friday decision not only rejected the funding scheme but went further than past rulings by specifically declaring “unlawful” an emergency proclamation Trump issued in February seeking to unlock money to fulfill one of his key campaign promises.

Last year, a district-court judge in California blocked the funds as well, but the Supreme Court put the injunction aside on murky procedural grounds related to the plaintiff’s standing to sue. It’s unclear whether similar issues will bring SCOTUS to the administration’s rescue once again.

All in all, it was a Friday to forget for this most litigious of presidents. At least the public bore the cost of his lawyers in these cases.

Trump Had a Bad Day in the Courts