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Trump’s ‘Fifth Avenue’ Lawyer on Familiar Turf at Supreme Court

Nov. 22, 2019, 9:50 AM

Donald Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy’s Supreme Court quest to save the president’s financial records from investigation isn’t his first high court foray.

The former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas who asserted last month that Trump couldn’t be investigated while in office even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue has already argued two Supreme Court cases and filed briefs in others, including one supporting gun rights in a Second Amendment case that the justices will hear on Dec. 2.

Yet the Consovoy McCarthy partner who’s represented Trump in an array of matters faces an uphill battle in trying to convince the high court to block subpoenas in separate cases from New York and Washington. They stem from investigations by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the U.S. House into the president’s potential monetary malfeasance.

The high court has previously rebuffed attempts from Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton to avoid legal process by virtue of being president.

Both cases come to the justices as impeachment proceedings against Trump heat up. They’re at the early stages of high court litigation but the court could move quickly to produce potentially profound decisions on presidential power.

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s move to investigate the president’s alleged hush money payments to women claiming affairs with him is “politically motivated,” the president argued in his appeal to the justices filed by multiple lawyers including Consovoy and others at the firm.

Arguing that Vance’s subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm is too great an incursion against a sitting president, Consovoy told U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit judges during oral argument in October essentially that the chief executive could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without investigation while in office, echoing Trump’s boast that such an action wouldn’t cause him to lose votes.

Consovoy, who has also co-directed the Supreme Court Clinic at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Second Circuit ruled against Trump, noting that the past six presidents, dating back to Jimmy Carter, all voluntarily released their tax returns to the public.

“While we do not place dispositive weight on this fact, it reinforces our conclusion that the disclosure of personal financial information, standing alone, is unlikely to impair the President in performing the duties of his office,” the appeals court said earlier this month, prompting one of the pending appeals.

The other comes from the D.C. Circuit. The House Oversight and Reform Committee in seeking eight years of financial information said it’s considering revising the federal ethics-in-government laws.

Consovoy’s previous two high court arguments came in 2015. He argued for a man who sued the “people search engine” Spokeo under the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 in the closely watched class action case Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, and for Texas voters who sued the state in voting rights dispute Evenwel v. Abbott.

While at Wiley Rein he was on the legal team that got the court, in the hotly contested opinion Shelby County v. Holder, to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

His firm boasts of its ability to solve complex legal problems without armies of lawyers, noting in on its website that the firm’s model “gives us the flexibility to tailor our fees, including the use of alternative fee arrangements, to meet our clients’ goals.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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