In a opinion today, the Second Circuit held that two financial institutions must comply with recent subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Financial Services Committee seeking information related to the Trump Organization and Trump family businesses. President Trump and others had filed a suit to prevent the banks from complying with the subpoenas (see our previous coverage here).
The Second Circuit affirmed in part Judge Ramos’ earlier denial of President Trump’s request for an injunction. In part, the Second Circuit found that the public interest outweighed individual privacy concerns because the lead plaintiff was the President of the United States:
We recognize, however, that the privacy interests supporting nondisclosure of documents reflecting financial transactions of the Lead Plaintiff should be accorded more significance than those of an ordinary citizen because the Lead Plaintiff is the President. Although the documents are not official records of the Executive Branch, the Lead Plaintiff is not suing in his official capacity, and no executive privilege has been asserted, disclosure of the subpoenaed documents can be expected to risk at least some distraction of the Nation’s Chief Executive in the performance of his official duties. See Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 753 (1982) (noting risk of distraction as one reason for establishing immunity of President from civil liability for official actions). That concern, we note, did not dissuade the Supreme Court from requiring President Nixon to comply with a district court’s subpoena to produce tape recordings of conversations with senior staff, see United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), or requiring President Clinton to submit to discovery, including a deposition, in civil litigation involving pre‐ presidential conduct, see Jones, 520 U.S. at 697‒706. See also Trump v. Vance, 941 F.3d 631, 641 n. 12 (2d Cir. 2019) (concluding that “the disclosure of personal financial information, standing alone, is unlikely to impair the President in performing the duties of his office”), petition for cert. filed, No. 19‐635 (U.S. Nov. 14, 2019). The Committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions.
The case was remanded to Judge Ramos to determine the scope of the documents to be produced in response to the subpoenas.