Federal judges rule against Trump in 3 cases on executive powers

President Trump suffered defeats in three major court rulings Friday that address the limits of his executive authority.

The rulings come as the White House has sought to thwart House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the president’s request that the Ukrainian government investigate one of his political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. While Friday’s decisions stem from cases unrelated to the Ukraine matter, they each address what plaintiffs claimed was a president overstepping his constitutional bounds.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Target Center, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Trump at a campaign rally on Thursday in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Business records

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a lower court decision, ruling that Congress can see eight years of Trump’s business records held by his accounting firm, Mazars USA. The House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed the records after the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified that Trump had exaggerated his wealth when applying for loans, which is a crime.

“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Judges David S. Tatel and Patricia A. Millett wrote. The judges went on to call the congressional subpoena for Trump’s records “a valid exercise of the legislative authority.”

Trump will likely appeal again, either to the full D.C. Circuit Court or to the Supreme Court.

Denying green cards and visas to low-income immigrants

U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary nationwide injunction blocking a Trump administration rule set to take effect next week that would have made it easier to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who cannot show they will not require public assistance. After the administration announced the new rule, nearly a dozen states filed suit to block it.

“The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification,” Daniels wrote in his scathing opinion. “It is repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upwards mobility.”

Later on Friday afternoon, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton issued a preliminary injunction in a case announced by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The president’s legal team is expected to appeal the decisions.

Wall funding

U.S. District Court Judge David Briones, in the Western District of Texas, ruled that the declaration of a national emergency under which Trump diverted funds from other agencies to construct a Mexico border wall was unlawful.

The decision found that the law “expressly forbids” a president from using money allocated by Congress for any other purpose than was originally set forth. The county of El Paso and the Border Network for Human Rights brought the lawsuit, contending that Trump had broken the law by diverting Defense Department funds to build the wall.

The judge did not specify what should now happen, but has asked the county and the Border Network to file a proposed preliminary injunction within 10 days. In the meantime, construction of the border wall can continue, but that could come to a halt once the terms of the injunction are specified.

An appeal is expected from the Trump administration.


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