Although President Donald Trump has obsessively sought to cast doubt about the legitimacy of the currently ongoing impeachment inquiry from House Democrats, it’s not sticking. In a recent ruling upholding a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee, a D.C-area court of appeals also upheld the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry itself, by extension. That authority means that — at least according to the majority on the court that heard the case — House Democrats can legitimately access material like Trump’s personal tax returns, which he has long kept hidden but could help illuminate allegations of fraud, among other things.
‘[T]he court pointed out that the committee has gone beyond just saying insincere but validating words. As long as the panel’s stated purpose is buttressed by references to specific past or future problems, and those problems could be the subjects of appropriate legislation, then it is not for the court to say that Congress has exceeded its broad power… So broad is Congress’ power that even an investigation into the prior bad conduct of a single person can be valid when the objective is to enact legislation to fix the problem, the court said.’
House Democrats have definitely made their intent clear to try and enact some lasting fix to the issues Trump has exposed. One of their very first legislative efforts when becoming the majority in the U.S. House after the midterm elections last year was H.R. 1, a massive ethics reform package that would — among many other things — demand that presidents, vice presidents, and candidates for those offices reveal the previous ten years of their tax returns. Before Trump, those disclosures were an established precedent, allowing concerned interests to examine any possible conflicts of interest on presidents’ part.
The case that prompted this D.C.-appeals court’s declaration in favor of House Dems is not over. They delayed enforcement of their ruling in order to give a chance to the president’s legal team to appeal. Options for appeals include a rehearing with every judge on the court and going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where although Trump has already had a chance to place two judges, he still might find no help. There apparently hasn’t been a ruling in the case yet in his favor.
Trump and his cronies have tried to insist that House Democrats lack a “legitimate legislative purpose” for their investigative efforts, and so, they’re supposedly out of line. The D.C.-area appeals court flatly disagrees, having insisted — in addition to the above — that “information sought [must be] “reasonably relevant” to the committee’s legitimate legislative inquiry,” and that’s all. It doesn’t need to suit the standards of those under investigation.
The ruling has implications for the future of House Democrats’ investigative efforts. They currently have subpoenas out targeting a wide variety of interests, from the apparently resigning Energy Secretary Rick Perry to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, both of whom participated in the Ukraine scandal that sparked the formal inquiry that is currently ongoing.