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Chief Justice gives President extra time to fight subpoena on tax returns

Published: Monday, November 18, 2019 @ 1:39 PM

With Democrats on a House panel offering lawyers for President Donald Trump ten extra days to submit legal arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on a subpoena to his accounting firm for his tax returns, Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday granted a temporary stay of an appeals court order requiring that those financial documents be provided to Congress on Wednesday.

"IT IS ORDERED that the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, case No. 19-5142, is hereby stayed pending receipt of a response, due on or before Thursday, November 21, 2019, by 3 p.m. ET, and further order of the undersigned or of the Court," the Chief Justice wrote in a Monday order.

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The move came after the House Oversight and Reform Committee filed a letter agreeing to give the President's legal team extra time to deal with the case.

Without such action, the appeals court order for the President's accounting firm, Mazar's, to produce the financial documents requested by Congress would have taken effect on Wednesday.

The move by the Chief Justice was what is known as an 'administrative stay' - not really getting to the merits of the matter.

"This is a totally standard procedural move, nothing more," tweeted Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

It's likely the broader issues could be considered at a regularly scheduled conference meeting on Friday, where the Justices consider whether to take up certain cases before the High Court.

The Supreme Court has several options - the Justices could allow the lower court ruling to stand, which ordered Mazar's to abide by the subpoena, and turn over the President's documents.

Or, the Justices could decide to hold a special set of arguments on the case.

President Trump's legal team has already asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and block a similar subpoena from prosecutors in New York City, who are also seeking the President's financial records from Mazar.

The Supreme Court has not taken any action with respect to that New York case. 

As for the matter involving the House Oversight Committee, lower courts have ruled against the President's bid to block a subpoena to his accounting firm as well.

In the New York case, the President's lawyers told the Supreme Court last week that Mr. Trump has 'absolute immunity' from any criminal investigation while in office.

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