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Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

‘Daddy, no!’: Chris Watts’ Daughter Begged for Life After Mom, Sister Murdered

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Dave Baumhover’s post-traumatic stress disorder can be triggered by the most innocent, the most innocuous of things: The sight of little girls.

The Frederick, Colorado, police detective experienced a flashback during a recent vacation to Phoenix, according to The Denver Post. The sight of two little girls walking into a restaurant triggered horrible memories from last August.

The smell of crude oil. The suits of the hazmat crew. And the tiny, oil-slicked bodies of Bella and Celeste Watts, pulled from the oil storage tanks where their father, Christopher Lee Watts, stuffed them after suffocating them with their own blankets.

>> Read more trending news 

Nearby, Watts’ pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their unborn son, Nico, lay in a shallow grave. Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, had been strangled.

Baumhover, who is currently on leave for PTSD and may not return to his job, told the Post the memories are relentless.

“It’s like when you’re a kid and you go on the wrong carnival ride and all you want to do is get off,” the detective told the newspaper. “But you can’t. You have no choice until the ride shuts off.”

Tuesday marked a year since Chris Watts killed his 34-year-old wife in their bed and then drove their daughters, ages 4 and 3, to an oil tank battery 60 miles away, where he first killed Celeste, known to her family as Cece, and then Bella, who he told authorities begged for her life.

Their mother’s lifeless body lay at their feet as they rode to their deaths.

The Denver Post via Getty Images
Pictured is the Andarko Petroleum oil battery where Chris Watts dumped the bodies of his wife, Shanann, and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, the morning of Aug. 13, 2018. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the murders.

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: The Denver Post via Getty Images
Pictured is the Andarko Petroleum oil battery where Chris Watts dumped the bodies of his wife, Shanann, and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, the morning of Aug. 13, 2018. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the murders.

>> 'Daddy, no!': Chris Watts' 4-year-old daughter begged for life after mom, sister murdered

Two grieving families

Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, spoke to the media last month outside his daughter’s Frederick home, which the Post reported remains empty and is up for public auction next month. According to ABC News, Rzucek said his family has been unable to grieve properly because of online trolls.

“For the past 11 months, piled on top of pain and the grieving of this devastating loss, our family has been subject to horrible, cruel abuse, outright bullying on a daily basis,” Rzucek said. “I don’t want to draw more attention to the viral material that has been posted online, but I will say that our family, including Shanann and her children, our grandchildren, have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered, mocked in the most vicious ways you can imagine.”

Rzucek said strangers have tried to capitalize on false rumors and lies about his daughter and grandchildren.

“It is cruel. It is heartless,” he said, likening the family’s experiences to the harassment and conspiracy theories that have plagued the families of the children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Families like ours should have the right to be safe, the right to mourn in peace,” Rzucek said.

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' father, Frank Rzucek, weeps in a Colorado courtroom Aug. 21, 2019, as Shanann's brother, Frankie Rzucek, comforts him. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of Shanann, his wife, and their two daughters.

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' father, Frank Rzucek, weeps in a Colorado courtroom Aug. 21, 2019, as Shanann's brother, Frankie Rzucek, comforts him. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of Shanann, his wife, and their two daughters.

The Rzuceks have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Watts in Weld County District Court. Because Watts has not responded to the suit, the court found him in default in May, the Post reported.

Watts’ own family has struggled to deal with what he confessed to doing to his wife and children. His mother, Cindy Watts, who in November questioned her son’s plea deal, was recently interviewed for an HLN special, “Killer Dad: Chris Watts Speaks.”

During the interview, Cindy Watts read from a letter her son wrote from prison, in which he claimed he has found God and is a changed man.

“I’m still a Dad! I’m still a son! No matter what,” Chris Watts wrote, according to an excerpt obtained by People magazine. “Now, I can add servant of God to that mix! He has shown me peace, peace, love and forgiveness, and that’s how I live every day.”

Watch Cindy Watts talk about her son and his family in raw footage from 9News in Denver.

In a February prison interview with investigators from the Frederick Police Department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, Watts said he has photos of his wife and children in his prison cell and that he reads one of the girls’ favorite books to their pictures each night. An April Change.org petition sought to have prison officials remove the photos from Watts’ cell since they are of his victims.

Prison officials in Wisconsin, where Watts was being held, responded by saying that the photos did not violate prison policy.

“Incarcerated inmates are permitted to possess certain identified items of property, including photographs,” a statement obtained by People read. “Some photographs are not allowed, such as those depicting gang signs, colors or insignias, or photographs that include nudity.”

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' mother, Sandra Rzucek, reads a statement Nov. 19, 2018, in a Colorado courtroom as her son-in-law, Chris Watts, sits in the background. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of his wife and their two daughters.

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' mother, Sandra Rzucek, reads a statement Nov. 19, 2018, in a Colorado courtroom as her son-in-law, Chris Watts, sits in the background. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of his wife and their two daughters.

A baffling disappearance

The details of the Watts murders are heartbreaking.

Shanann, Bella and Celeste were reported missing Aug. 13 after Nickole Atkinson, Shanann’s best friend and co-worker, could not reach her, Watts’ arrest affidavit says. Atkinson had last seen Shanann around 2 a.m. when she dropped her off following an out-of-town business trip.

Home security footage showing Shanann climbing the steps to the front door and entering the house are the last images of her alive.

Watts initially said he awoke around 4 a.m. that morning and talked to his wife about a separation. Watts said that despite an “emotional conversation,” it did not get confrontational and when he left for work around 5:30 a.m., his wife and daughters were in bed.

He claimed Shanann told him she was taking the girls to a friend’s home later that day for a play date.

When Atkinson went to the Watts home, however, no one would answer the door. Shanann’s vehicle, purse and cellphone were there, as was medication for Cece’s allergies, including an EpiPen. Atkinson called 911 out of fear that Shanann, who had lupus, was suffering a medical emergency.

Atkinson also called Watts, who in turn called another of Shanann’s friends, Cassandra Rosenberg. Rosenberg told the ABC news program “Nightline” that when she told Watts that Atkinson was calling police, Watts said he didn’t want the police involved.

“I said, ‘You’re an idiot and you need to get to the house because something’s wrong,’” Rosenberg said.

In the days that followed, Watts played the part of the worried husband and father, giving a TV news interview outside the family’s home and pleading for their safe return.

In an interview with “Nightline,” Shanann’s parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, said they immediately suspected Watts had something to do with the disappearance of their daughter and granddaughters.

“I told the police to find his GPS, because his GPS was gonna tell them where my family is,” Frank Rzucek said.

Watts, who police learned was having an affair, broke down and confessed Aug. 15 to killing his wife. He claimed he strangled Shanann in a rage after she killed their daughters because he asked for a divorce.

Using an aerial map, Watts led investigators to Shanann’s shallow grave at a tank battery belonging to his employer, Andarko Petroleum. Bella and Celeste were found submerged in crude oil inside two tanks 100 feet away from their mother’s grave.

Watts went to work at that location just hours after he got rid of the bodies, co-workers have said.

Watts pleaded guilty to his crimes to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced in November to five life terms, including three to be served consecutively, plus 85 years.

Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Pictured is the home at 2825 Saratoga Trail in Frederick, Colo., where Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife, Shanann, before driving their daughters, Bella and Celeste, to a rural oil battery and suffocating them. Watts is serving life in prison.

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Pictured is the home at 2825 Saratoga Trail in Frederick, Colo., where Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife, Shanann, before driving their daughters, Bella and Celeste, to a rural oil battery and suffocating them. Watts is serving life in prison.

‘What’s wrong with Mommy?’

It wasn’t until Baumhover and other detectives visited him in February in a Wisconsin prison, where he had been transferred for his own safety, that Watts told the truth about the murders of his wife and daughters.

Editor’s note: The following depiction of the deaths of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts is graphic in nature and may be upsetting to some readers.

Watts said he and his wife had sex about 30 minutes after Atkinson dropped her off at home, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation report on the February interview. In his head, Watts said, he felt like Shannan knew about his affair with his co-worker, Nichol Kessinger.

“Having sex with Shanann may have been a ‘trigger point,’ or like you hit the push button on a bomb and it just blows up,” the report states.

Watts told the investigators he and Shanann fell asleep after their sexual encounter, but he woke her up after getting ready for work. When Shanann awoke, she turned over onto her back and Watts said he straddled her to talk.

Shanann, who told him he was possibly hurting their unborn baby, told him she knew there was “someone else” and began crying, Watts said.

He initially denied the affair with Kessinger. Watts said he told Shanann he didn’t think their marriage would work, the report says. When he told her he no longer loved her, Shanann allegedly threatened to keep the children away from him.

“You’re never gonna see the kids again,” Watts quoted his wife as saying. “You’re never gonna see them again. Get off me. Don’t hurt the baby.”

That’s when Watts strangled Shanann, the report says. Watts said she never screamed or fought back.

He believes she may have been praying as he took her life.

Read the chilling details of Chris Watts' February statements to law enforcement below.

Chris Watts Feb 18 Interview by c_bonvillian on Scribd

Watts mused on whether he already had the seed of murder planted in his mind before that morning.

“Every time I think about it, I’m just like, ‘Did I know I was going to do that before I got on top of her?’” he said.

Watts theorized that noise from Shanann’s death may have woken Bella, who walked into the master bedroom holding a blanket. She asked what was wrong with her mother.

“Mommy don’t feel good,” Watts told the little girl, according to the report.

He wrapped Shanann’s body face-down in a bedsheet, which was later recovered at the Andarko oil site. As Bella watched Watts drag her mother down the stairs, she began to cry.

“What’s wrong with Mommy?” she asked again.

Watts repeated that Shanann didn’t feel well but told investigators during the interview: “Bella is a smart girl and knew what was going on.”

Watch a “Nightline” segment on the Watts murders below, courtesy of ABC News.

Surveillance footage from outside a neighbor’s home captured Watts backing his truck into the driveway of his home and some of his movements back and forth as he loaded his wife’s body into the vehicle.

“Nightline” obtained police body camera footage that shows an officer, Watts neighbor Nathan Trinastich and Watts watching the footage at Trinastich’s home the day Shanann and the girls were reported missing.

Watts is obviously nervous in the footage.

At one point, he is seen putting his hands on the back of his head. He also sways back and forth nervously.

“He’s not acting right at all,” Trinastich tells the officer quietly after Watts leaves the room.

‘Daddy, no!’

After Watts drove away from the home, Bella and Celeste, each carrying a blanket and Celeste cuddling a stuffed dog, dozed on and off on the ride to the Andarko site, Watts said. They held each other in their sleep and lay in each other’s laps.

At one point during the ride, Bella told him, “Daddy, it smells,” the report says.

The document indicates that as Shanann was being strangled, her bowels evacuated.

Once at the tank battery, Watts removed Shanann’s body from the truck and dragged her over to where he planned to bury her. Both girls asked what he was doing to her, but he said he couldn’t remember what he told them, according to the report.

Back at the truck, Watts said, he grabbed the blue New York Yankees blanket Celeste was holding and put it over her head, the report says. He strangled her in the back seat of the truck as her older sister sat at her side.

“He put his hand over Celeste’s mouth and nose (over the blanket) and his other hand around the front of Celeste’s neck,” the report reads. “Bella was seated right beside Celeste as he strangled her, but Bella didn’t say anything.”

Watts told investigators he wasn’t thinking as he killed his daughter.

“If I was thinking, this wouldn’t have happened,” Watts said. “Or any partial hint of what I feel for those girls and what I feel for my wife, then none of this would have happened. So I wasn’t thinking.”

Once Celeste was dead, he carried her from the truck and over to one of the oil tanks, where he opened the hatch and dropped her inside, feet first, the report says. He closed the hatch and went back to the truck.

Bella asked what happened to her sister, the report says.

“Is the same thing gonna happen to me as Cece?” Bella asked her father.

Watts told the investigators he was not sure if he responded affirmatively or not.

He put the Yankees blanket over Bella’s head.

“Daddy, no!” she cried.

Watts said those were Bella’s last words.

Bella put up a fight for her life. Watts told the investigators he could hear her “grunt” as she tried to breathe, and her head twisted back and forth under the blanket.

Autopsy results on her small body showed she bit through her tongue multiple times as she struggled against her father.

After using the same suffocation technique he had with Celeste, Watts carried Bella to the second oil tank on the site and dropped her inside, according to the document.

“Bella seemed harder to get into the tank than Celeste, but he just had to manipulate her to get her inside,” the report says.

After disposing of his daughters’ bodies, Watts said, he returned to where Shanann lay and began using a rake to clear away some weeds. The rake broke, and he left part of it at the site, where it would later be found by detectives.

He used a shovel to dig Shanann’s grave and bury her, the report says. Though she was not bleeding or cut, Watts noticed her eyes were bloodshot.

Watts said he later got rid of his clothes and the Yankees blanket in a construction dumpster in the Watts’ neighborhood. He did so on his way home from work the day of the slayings.

In Facebook posts Tuesday afternoon, Rosenberg and Atkinson mourned for their friend, for Bella and for Celeste. Rosenberg wrote that she suspected something was terribly wrong even before speaking to Watts that horrible day.

“His voice begging me to not call the cops still rings in my head,” Rosenberg wrote. “I’m so glad we didn’t listen! I wish I could have done more or seen something sooner to save you all in some way.”

Atkinson wrote that the reality of their absence still does not seem real.

“I will never understand why you were all (taken) so soon. I hear you talk to me every day,” Atkinson wrote. “I hear the girls’ laughter as Madison tells me they are playing. You all will always be in our lives and hold a special place in our hearts.”

To Nico, she wrote that she believes he would have been a good mix of Bella’s sweet shyness and Cece’s rambunctiousness.

“Your mommy was so happy and excited that you were a boy,” Atkinson wrote. “I got the wonderful honor of telling your mommy what you were going to be.

“We had so many plans and dreams for you all.”

Read More

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The punishment is not just, but we’re just going to have to accept it.” Campbell, 31, was reported missing by her family in June 2009. According to authorities, she had last been seen leaving her apartment, Apartment 507 at Harbor Hills, a public housing complex in an unincorporated area of Lomita. She is survived by a son, Nicholas, who family members told the Breeze will turn 18 later this month. He was 7 when his mother vanished. “He’s just devastated by this,” Kemp told the newspaper. “I wish you could have let us know where she was so we didn’t have to keep searching,” another sister, Linda Campbell told Garbutt during his sentencing hearing. “Her son had to think his mom was alive for years.” Another of Campbell’s sisters, Malaikah Manasseh, told the Los Angeles Times in 2015 that Campbell lived in a group home before she moved into the housing project with a high school friend. The friend’s boyfriend also was a resident of record at the apartment in late 2008, when Campbell moved in, authorities said. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide Lt. Steve Jauch said during a news conference the day after Garbutt’s 2016 arrest that Campbell’s friend, identified during later court proceedings as Nicole Nelson, and her boyfriend invited Campbell to stay with them. “They brought her in to live at the residence so she could save some money,” Jauch said. Garbutt, a friend of the couple, was also staying at the apartment during the six months Campbell lived there, Jauch said. The lieutenant told reporters the roommates, including Garbutt, all became friends. Nathan and her boyfriend were interviewed at length and were not suspected in Campbell’s killing, the lieutenant said. Campbell’s family immediately suspected foul play when Campbell vanished because her purse was left behind, Manasseh told the Times. She said her sister always wore her purse strapped against her chest and would not have left home without it. A tip and a gruesome discovery  The case remained cold until late June 2015, when homicide investigators, acting on a tip, went to the unit but found no one home, Jauch said. They returned the next day with cadaver dogs and got the new tenants’ permission to search the apartment. The dogs alerted their handlers to the possible presence of human remains inside a closet under the two-story unit’s stairs. Investigators got permission from the Los Angeles County Housing Authority to knock down a portion of the wall, which had a visible patched-up hole, Jauch said. “Detectives removed the actual piece of paneling that was used to patch it up and there appeared to be something suspicious behind this wall, on the floor a good distance down in this closet area of the residence,” the lieutenant said. The following week, on July 2, 2015, homicide detectives and staff from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office exhumed Campbell’s remains. The medical examiner identified the body and determined Campbell had died of blunt force trauma to the head. The residents living in the apartment at the time were stunned, Jauch said. They were temporarily relocated when their home became a crime scene. “I think the natural reaction from anyone hearing information that there may be human remains where you’re living, I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t be taken aback by that information,” Jauch said, according to the Times. Campbell’s body was found in an empty space behind the closet. “It’s hollow and connects to the closet,” Candace Diggs, a resident in the housing complex told the newspaper. “These units are all built the same. They’re all concrete except for the wall behind the stairs.” Jauch explained that empty space under the stairs appeared to be an unusual design. “Typically, when you picture a hole in the wall, what most of us picture would be a hole in a wall with a floor directly at the base of the wall,” Jauch said, using the wall behind him to demonstrate. “That wasn’t the case here. “It was a configuration where the hole in the wall inside of the closet area … actually dropped down several feet to a dirt floor.” Watch Lt. Steve Jauch discuss the killing of Raven Campbell below. When detectives and crime scene technicians removed the patch job from the wall and looked down, they could see the bundle containing Campbell’s remains. According to KTLA, Campbell’s family members were certain the remains were hers as soon as they were found. At the time of the discovery, they blamed investigators for not doing a more thorough search of her home when she went missing. “We said bring the dogs, bring … everything we saw on ‘CSI.’ We wanted them to do that. They said, ‘No, we don’t find any reason,’” Campbell’s cousin, Linda Campbellhumphrey told the news station in 2015. “We, in our heart of hearts, know it’s her.” Jauch said during the 2016 news conference that homicide and missing persons detectives conducted significant legwork after Campbell disappeared. “Interviews were conducted, bank records were checked, phone records were checked,” Jauch said. “Ultimately, the case went cold.” Campbell’s family described her as a sweet, trusting woman. “She was such a wonderful spirit,” a third sister, Renee Campbell, told KTLA in 2015. The siblings’ mother, Joreena Johnson, pleaded for information about her daughter’s death at a vigil following the gruesome discovery. “Who did this to her? She didn’t deserve this,” a tearful Johnson said, according to the news station. “Y’all help me find out what happened to my baby, please.” Garbutt was arrested on a murder charge seven months after Campbell’s body was found. Jauch said the arrest was the result of tireless efforts by homicide detectives, who looked at anyone who had a connection to the apartment in the time frame Campbell lived there. “Over the last several months, really, the credo from our detectives was, ‘Let’s don’t do this in a hurry, let’s do it right,’” Jauch said. Garbutt was initially arrested on a traffic warrant, the lieutenant said in 2016. “After being released on the warrant, he was immediately booked for the murder of Raven Campbell,” Jauch said. He was rebooked into the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. On Friday, Garbutt remained at the Los Angeles County jail system’s Pitchless Detention Center in Castaic, awaiting his transfer to state prison, jail records showed. A mistrial and a plea  Garbutt initially went on trial for Campbell’s slaying in 2018, but a mistrial was declared after information came to light about two witnesses neither prosecutors nor the defense team was aware of, the Breeze said. Two weeks of testimony prior to the mistrial revealed that Garbutt beat Campbell to death and enlisted Smith, the mother of his child, to help him push her body into the space behind the closet wall. Prosecutors said Smith began receiving Campbell’s mail, including her government checks, at her Inglewood home after Campbell vanished. The Breeze reported that police found Campbell’s identification in Smith’s possession a month after she went missing. It was unclear why Smith was not linked to Campbell’s disappearance at that time. The newspaper reported that Garbutt’s public defender, Rhonda Haymon, argued during last year’s trial that Smith, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony against her ex-boyfriend, was the true killer and Garbutt took the blame so their child would not grow up without a mother. Garbutt told investigators Campbell, who had been drinking, fell and hit her head after returning from bingo with another roommate, the Breeze reported. He said he panicked, afraid he’d be blamed for her head injury, and suffocated her with a plastic grocery bag. No other motive besides the story Garbutt told authorities has ever been uncovered. Smith testified that it was she and Nathan who went to play bingo the night Campbell was killed. When they returned, she found Garbutt “sweeping and mopping” the floor, using bleach to clean it, the Breeze reported. Smith said she thought nothing of it because Nathan liked to keep the apartment clean. According to the Breeze, Smith said she fell asleep on the couch but awoke to the sound of drilling. Smith said she found Garbutt inside the closet under the stairs, cutting a hole in the wall. A body was lying on the closet floor, wrapped in plastic and a floral print blanket, Smith testified. Garbutt told her it was Campbell. Smith testified that Garbutt climbed into the hole and started dragging Campbell’s body into it before asking her for help. She said she pushed the lifeless form about 2 inches. “He just pushed the body in the wall,” Smith said. The Breeze reported that Garbutt told Smith to keep a lookout to ensure no one was coming near the closet. “I was pacing back and forth,” Smith said, according to the newspaper. “I was at the window, and I was looking at the closet and my nerves was all ragged.” Investigators testified at the preliminary hearing that Garbutt said he used a bowl to dig up some dirt to throw over Campbell. After climbing out of the hole, he tossed several bathroom air fresheners into the makeshift grave to help cover the smell. Smith testified she was scared Garbutt would harm her if she told anyone what he had done, because he “always threatened and always told her he could kill her and no one would care,” the Breeze reported. Campbell’s family members, seven of whom spoke at Garbutt’s sentencing hearing, told the newspaper they believe if Garbutt had again gone to trial, he would have been convicted of murder and faced life in prison. They expressed heartbreak over the plea deal and subsequent, much lighter sentence. “I would have rather had a jury tell me ‘not guilty’ than to hear he’s only going to be in there for another five years,” Renee Campbell told the Breeze after the hearing. “It’s not ideal, but at least we get some closure.” The Campbell family described Raven as kind, loving, good-natured and innocent. She loved talking to loved ones on the phone and it was the sudden halt in her phone calls in the summer of 2009 that told them something had happened to her. They viewed her developmental issues as a gift, the Breeze reported. “The way she viewed the world was a lot healthier than most of us,” her niece, Princess Manessah, said.
  • Protests are underway after a City of Jacksonville spokesperson confirms that Mayor Lenny Curry has signed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet cafes in the area.  WOKV told you earlier this week, when the Jacksonville City Council voted in favor of a bill that would shut the businesses down immediately. The council had previously voted back in May to close the businesses, but decided at that time to give the operators until February 2020 to close their doors.  The city has said internet cafes are a nuisance and draw crime into the city. Data collected in September 2018 showed that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office received more than 28,000 calls to addresses tied to nearly 100 Internet cafes during a 5-year period.
  • A federal appellate court ruled Friday that President Donald Trump's accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers continue to probe his possible conflicts of interest. >> Read more trending news  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 2-1 ruling that lawmakers should get the documents they have subpoenaed from Mazars USA. Trump and his attorneys have argued against releasing the records, claiming that lawmakers lack a 'legitimate legislative purpose' for seeking the documents. >> Read the full ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 'The fact that the subpoena in this case seeks information that concerns the President of the United States adds a twist, but not a surprising one,' Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Patricia Millett. 'Disputes between Congress and the President are a recurring plot in our national story.' Tatel was put on the appellate court by President Bill Clinton and Millett was put on the court by President Barack Obama, according to Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' Tatel wrote. Trump could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a statement released Friday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings heralded the ruling and called for Mazars to quickly release Trump's financial records to Congress. 'Today's ruling is a fundamental and resounding victory for Congressional oversight, our Constitutional system of checks and balances and the rule of law,' Cummings said. 'After months of delay, it is time for the President to stop blocking Mazars from complying with the Committee's lawful subpoena. We must fulfill our stated legislative and oversight objectives and permit the American people to obtain answers about some of the deeply troubling questions regarding the President's adherence to Constitutional and statutory requirements to avoid conflicts of interest.' The ruling upheld a ruling issued by a lower court in support of lawmakers' right to subpoena Trump's financial records. Trump has been fighting off efforts by Congress to obtain his financial records since at least April, when the House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the documents from Mazars. Among other records, lawmakers sought documents from 2011 to 2018 for investigation into the president's reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest. The list of subpoenaed documents did not include Trump's tax returns, which are being sought by the House Ways and Means Committee. The group sued the Trump administration earlier this year for access to the president's tax returns in a case that continues to wind its way through the courts. In a separate case in New York, Trump sued to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capital One from complying with House subpoenas for banking and financial records. A judge ruled against him, and Trump appealed. The president is also trying in court to stop the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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