Trump’s lawyers just left a judge “incredulous” after questioning the constitutionality of Watergate

Though the Mueller probe may be over, the President’s legal battles with Congress over the limits of their investigations are raging as fiercely as ever before. The struggle took an astonishing turn on Tuesday when the president’s lawyers flat out told the legislative branch that their investigations were invalid — and that so were the investigations into Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton’s Whitewater “scandal.”

As part of their efforts to keep the House Oversight and Reform Committee from getting their hands on financial documents belonging to Trump’s accountant, the Trump team lawyers argued that the House was attempting to procure the documents for a “law enforcement” rather than a “legislative” purpose.

USA Today reports that District Judge Amit Mehta identified three possible reasons to revoke the accountant’s subpoena: “that Congress has no general authority to investigate the president’s private life, that it can’t investigate for the sake of exposure and that Congress can’t encroach on the powers of the other two branches.”

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Mehta asked Trump lawyer William Consovoy if he thought Congress was allowed to investigate the President’s corrupt behavior at all. Consovoy argued that “I don’t think that’s the proper subject of investigation as to the president.”

“Incredulous,” Mehta responded by bringing up the Watergate and Whitewater investigations that lead to the resignation of President Nixon and the impeachment of Bill Clinton and asked if those were legitimate probes, since they were “inquiring as to violations of criminal law,” adding that it was “pretty straightforward – among other things.”

In typical Trump fashion, Consovoy responded by saying he would have to look at “the basis for those investigations” but implied that the answer was no since “that is still law enforcement.”

The House’s general counsel, Douglas Letter, pointed out that this line of argument is preposterous and that the president’s team is just pulling out all the stops in order to prevent the House Oversight Committee from doing its job — which is to provide oversight on the most corrupt administration in American history:

“His main client, President Trump, has taken the position really that Congress and particularly the House of Representatives is a nuisance and we’re just getting in his way when he’s trying to run the country. The problem with that is that this is a total and basic and fundamental misunderstanding of the system that is set up by the Constitution” said Letter.

It remains to be seen if Mehta, who was appointed by President Obama, will be swayed by the president’s arguments — but his pointing out that “courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880” indicates that he doesn’t feel there’s a precedent to give them what they want.

The insinuation that no previous investigations into presidential scandals were legally valid is a crossing of the Constitutional Rubicon and makes it clear that the Donald J. Trump administration is going to stop at nothing in order to protect the president’s misdeeds and undermine Congress’s authority at every turn, and we need to let him know loud and clear that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated by the American people.

Original reporting by Bart Jansen at USA Today.

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Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.


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