The Trump crime family sues to block subpoenas for bank records

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Last week CNN reported that Deutsche Bank begins process of providing Trump financial records to New York’s attorney general:

Deutsche Bank has begun the process of providing financial records to New York state’s attorney general in response to a subpoena for documents related to loans made to President Donald Trump and his business, according to a person familiar with the production.

Last month, the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James issued subpoenas for records tied to funding for several Trump Organization projects.

The state’s top legal officer opened a civil probe after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress in a public hearing that Trump had inflated his assets. Cohen at that time presented copies of financial statements he said had been provided to Deutsche Bank.

The bank is in the process of turning over documents, including emails and loan documents, related to Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; the Trump National Doral Miami; the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago; and the unsuccessful effort to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

A spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

The bank is already the subject of a joint investigation between the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees into Trump’s businesses and money laundering.

Today, the New York Times reports that the Trump crime family has sued its banks to block their response to subpoenas from Congress and New York. Trump Sues Deutsche Bank and Capital One to Block Compliance With Subpoenas:

President Trump, his three eldest children and his private company filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One, in a bid to prevent the banks from responding to congressional subpoenas.

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The House’s Intelligence and Financial Services Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, a longtime lender to Mr. Trump’s real estate company, and other financial institutions two weeks ago, seeking a long list of documents and other materials related to Deutsche Bank’s history of lending and providing accounts to Mr. Trump and his family. People with knowledge of the investigation said it related to possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Representative Maxine Waters of California, the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the lawsuit “meritless” in a joint statement, and said it demonstrated “the depths to which President Trump will go to obstruct Congress’s constitutional oversight authority.”

“As a private businessman, Trump routinely used his well-known litigiousness and the threat of lawsuits to intimidate others, but he will find that Congress will not be deterred from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities,” they said. “This lawsuit is not designed to succeed; it is only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible.”

They added, “This unprecedented stonewalling will not work, and the American people deserve better.”

Kerrie McHugh, a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman, said, “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations.”

Capital One representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post adds:

[L]egal experts predicted that the courts would be unwilling to stand in the way of congressional oversight. If nothing else, however, the lawsuit could delay the committees’ investigations into Trump’s finances and business dealings.

“This isn’t a close legal question,” said David Alan Sklansky, a professor at Stanford Law School. “I’m quite confident there has never been a situation where a congressional subpoena has been quashed without a finding that it violates a constitutional right.”

The claim that there is no legitimate need for the subpoena, or that it is politically motivated, is a “frivolous argument, even if it’s true,” he said. “That is not a basis for quashing a subpoena.”

Nor is the claim that the inquest violates the privacy of the president or his family members, the law professor said.

“That’s how subpoena power works — it’s about getting information that people would like to be kept private,” he said.

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The suit appeared similar to another filed by Trump earlier this month against his own accounting firm, Mazars USA, to stop it from complying with a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. In that case, the committee was seeking documents related to “Statements of Financial Condition” that the firm prepared for Trump to convince lenders he was wealthy enough to be a good credit risk.

The congressional committees have also demanded documents from a handful of other financial institutions, such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup. The requests are part of Democratic probes into possible Russian money-laundering.

Former White House Attorney Bob Bauer writes at the Washington Post, Trump’s stonewalling of Congress is illegal:

It is all too easy to underestimate the significance of President Trump’s outright defiance of Congress’s request that senior aides testify. His declaration that this White House will resist all congressional subpoenas, across the board, is an unprecedented challenge to the House’s exercise of its constitutional oversight powers.

To be sure, presidents and Congress joust often over requests for senior aide testimony or White House documents. The public might suspect that such disputes are invariably partisan, with Democratic presidents resisting Republican requests for information and vice versa.

In fact, the executive and the legislature have, at least until now, fought these battles within a shared, if tense, understanding of the constitutional precedents: Congress has extensive authority to probe an administration’s activities and performance, while presidents retain appropriate latitude to solicit, and keep private, advice from senior staff. In normal times, the conflict is resolved by negotiation and compromise, or one branch or the other retreats, or chooses to focus on other battles. The disputes infrequently become testy enough to spill into the courts, at which point judges may then prod the quarreling branches to compromise.

But this president has declared that he will fight “all the subpoenas,” deeming them purely partisan in motivation. “I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this,” he has said.

Trump has forfeited any claim that he is acting in good faith.

Trump simply does not have this unilateral authority to control the information that Congress seeks. As the Supreme Court stated in a 1959 case, “The power of inquiry has been employed by Congress throughout our history, over the whole range of the national interests concerning which Congress might legislate or decide upon due investigation not to legislate.”

Even the Office of Legal Counsel, the lead legal corps within the executive branch, has acknowledged, in a 1985 opinion that “it is beyond dispute that Congress may conduct investigations in order to obtain facts pertinent to possible legislation and in order to evaluate the effectiveness of current laws” and that “this power to obtain information has long been viewed as an essential attribute of the power to legislate.”

In tension with these established principles is the president’s right to invoke “executive privilege” to protect certain classes of confidential communications. But that is a qualified, not an absolute, right.

President George W. Bush unsuccessfully urged the courts to recognize a more sweeping form of immunity — and failed. Rejecting Bush’s attempt to prevent testimony by two senior aides, White House counsel Harriet Miers and senior adviser Karl Rove, U.S. District Judge John Bates found no basis for the administration’s position: “Unfortunately for the Executive, this line of argument has been virtually foreclosed by the Supreme Court.”

Bates’s ruling pushed Congress and the executive into an accommodation. Rove and Miers testified, but behind closed doors, with the understanding that the transcript of the interview would be subject to public release.

Importantly, in such a process, a president does not surrender his constitutional prerogatives. He or she may assert the privilege to protect particular communications, but this must be done on a question-by-question basis. Should Congress dispute executive branch demurrals, it may resort to the courts, or it may conclude it doesn’t need the information in question to achieve its investigative mission. But the presidents have no legal basis for a blanket refusal to permit his aides to testify, period.

The administration is also blocking the congressional testimony of senior adviser Stephen Miller — a move that highlights the stakes of Trump’s extreme position. Miller does not simply advise the president. In a recent Oval Office meeting, the president reportedly declared Miller to be “in charge of all immigration initiatives” throughout the administration. Indeed, by all accounts, Miller has been the architect of the most prominent and consequential policies and administration actions in this area, including the recent, ill-fated (and illegal) proposal to transport thousands of undocumented migrants for release to the streets of sanctuary cities. He has apparently been able to secure the dismissal of department and agency officials he deems ineffective.

It stands to reason that the House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) wants to hear Miller’s testimony on these policies — and asked him to appear voluntarily. The administration declined, and that first round might have then segued into a move toward a negotiated compromise. But again, the president objects to the testimony, period.

Should Trump hold fast to this position, he will have taken a position completely at odds with settled law in this area. If the House seeks help from the courts, Trump will eventually lose, but it matters that a president will force such a confrontation without regard to the constitutional merits of his position. In Trump’s case, moreover, it is not certain how he would react to defeat in court. Might he up the ante by declining to comply with a court order?

Some Republicans have a predicable retort to all of this: Democratic presidents, including President Barack Obama, have also resisted Congress over demands for White House testimony. That’s simply incorrect.

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Under the Constitution, Congress is a co-equal branch of the government, a fact Trump is unable to understand or unwilling to accept. The courts may yet have to educate him on this point. If he continues to push the confrontation after that, we will be in truly dangerous territory.

Trump’s Stonewalling Pushes House Democrats Towards Impeachment:

[T]he White House’s plans to indefinitely stiff-arm their requests for documents and testimony, combined with the instances of alleged obstruction already laid out in Mueller’s report, is complicating that plan— and may drag House Democrats toward impeachment as an appropriately forceful way to respond to the administration’s conduct.

“I think the combination of the chilling depictions in the Mueller Report and Trump’s opacity is moving some members into the impeachment camp,” said one Democratic lawmaker. “Translation: it’s always the cover-up that gets ‘em.”

And a senior Democratic aide told The Daily Beast that the temperature within the conference has gone up since Trump said point-blank that the White House fights all congressional subpoenas.

The obstruction outlined in the Mueller Report, said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has “leapt off the page” in the last week with Trump’s refusal of lawmakers’ request.

“I have a hunch,” said Raskin, “that he is moving the whole caucus closer to seeing impeachable offenses.”