By Caroline Kelly and Eli Watkins, CNN
Updated: Fri, 10 May 2019 02:07:08 GMT
One man's name has popped up frequently as the battle between President Donald Trump and lawmakers rumbles into the courts: Judge Amit Mehta.
Mehta, a federal judge on the DC District Court, issued a 41-page opinion on Monday calling for a long-standing accounting firm for Trump to turn over records demanded by the House Oversight Committee. Mehta's ruling saying Congress was within its authority to demand the records as it investigates the President comes as Trump bucks demands from Congress for documents and testimony.
The Democratic-led committee has subpoenaed Trump's long-standing accounting firm Mazars USA for several years' worth of the President's financial statements, and the President has sued the committee and Mazars to block the firm from complying.
The judge weighed the issues of the case earlier this month, as laid out in a previous order - a ramped-up schedule compared with the original multi-stage timetable, which could have dragged out the legal fight and kept the records from Congress.
Mehta previously denied an attempt by the same committee Democrats to get Trump hotel records from the General Services Administration last year, asserting that they didn't have standing, as they were then in the minority party.
In his opinion on Monday, Mehta invoked the Senate's Watergate investigation as he argued "history has shown that congressionally-exposed criminal conduct" by the President or other high-ranking officials could lead to legislation.
"It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct -- past or present -- even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry," he added.
President Barack Obama nominated Mehta to the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014, after he had worked mainly for the boutique DC law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP since 1999. He focused on criminal prosecutions and investigations, representing a slew of high-profile clients including former International Monetary Fund President Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former Republican Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida and a lawyer involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation.
The National Law Journal's Minority 40 Under 40 list honored Mehta in 2011 and Benchmark Litigation named him a "Future Star" for 2011 and 2012. He served as a staff attorney for the District of Columbia Public Defender Service from 2002 to 2007.
He also previously worked for the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP and clerked for Judge Susan Graber of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, according to his DC District Court biography. He graduated from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia School of Law, and was born in India in 1971.
Mehta has revealed at least one personal detail about himself in his rulings: his love of hip-hop.
The judge heard musician Robert Prunty's case alleging that several music and entertainment companies had infringed his copyright, including that rapper Common's song "Kingdom" stole from Prunty's song "Keys to the Kingdom." In a 2015 opinion, Mehta asserted that he was "capable of concluding as a matter of law, without the assistance of expert testimony, that the songs 'Keys to the Kingdom' and 'Kingdom' are not substantially similar."
"This court also does not consider itself an ordinary 'lay person' when it comes to hip-hop music and lyrics," Mehta added in a corresponding footnote. "The court has listened to hip hop for decades and considers among his favorite musical artists, perhaps a sign of his age, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, and Eminem."