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Appeals court refuses to block House subpoena for Trump’s financial records

  • Author: Ann E. Marimow, Renae Merle, The Washington Post
  • Updated: December 3, 2019
  • Published December 3, 2019

NEW YORK --A federal appeals court has sided with House Democrats seeking to obtain President Donald Trump's private financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, stating that "the public interest favors denial of a preliminary injunction."

President Donald Trump prepares to board Marine One on Monday for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to London. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit came in the ongoing legal battle Trump has waged over access to his private business records -- including two cases that have already reached the Supreme Court.

The New York-based appeals court upheld Congress' broad investigative authority and ordered the two banks to comply with the House subpoenas for the president's financial information. The case pre-dates the public impeachment proceedings in the House.

"The Committees have already been delayed in the receipt of the subpoenaed material since April 11 when the subpoenas were issued. They need the remaining time to analyze the material, hold hearings, and draft bills for possible enactment," according to the ruling from Judge Jon Newman, who was joined by Judge Peter Hall.

The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees are seeking more than 10 years of financial records on Trump, his three oldest children - Eric, Don and Ivanka -- and Trump's businesses. The committees, led by Reps. Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters, both California Democrats, say they need the records as part of broad investigations into Russian money laundering and potential foreign influence involving Trump.

Trump's lawyers say the committees are pushing the boundaries of their powers to embarrass the president and their subpoenas serve no legislative purpose. The subpoenas would sweep up every debit card transaction and check written by Trump, his children and even his grandchildren, they said.

"These subpoenas are overbroad, nonpertinent attempts to reconstruct Plaintiffs' [Trump's] entire financial history," Patrick Strawbridge, one of Trump's attorney, wrote in court filings.

Last month, the federal appeals court in Washington let stand an earlier ruling against the president, affirming that Congress can seek eight years of Trump's tax records. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit previously ruled that Trump's claims that a Congressional subpoena was invalid because lawmakers lacked a "legitimate legislative purpose" were incorrect. A majority of the court's 11 active judges voted against revisiting the case.

In that case, the president is fighting a House Oversight Committee subpoena to his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, and audits it prepared for Trump and several of his companies.

Trump has asked the Supreme Court to block the subpoena, and Chief Justice John Roberts agreed to temporarily put the order on hold to give the high court time to review the case.

A separate three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit also unanimously rejected Trump's effort to block New York grand jury subpoenas for his eight years of Trump's tax returns from his accounting firm. The panel ruled that "any presidential immunity from a state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such subpoena," according to the opinion written by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann.

This case centers on a subpoena from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office is investigating hush-money payments made before the 2016 election to silence two women who said they had affairs years earlier with Trump. The president has denied the affairs.

Trump has also asked the Supreme Court to step in to stop disclosure of his financial records to New York prosecutors.

In the Deutsche Bank case, lawyers for the president's largest lender told the appeals court it has tax returns for one person or organization that the subpoenas are seeking, however identifying details were redacted. Following a motion from media organizations including The Washington Post and CNN to have the name of the person or organization made public, Deutsche Bank told the appeals court it does not have Trump's tax returns.

Deutsche Bank, a German banking giant, has been a major lender to both the Trump Organization and Kushner Companies, which previously was run by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a presidential adviser.

Trump's company has taken out about $364 million in loans from Deutsche Bank since 2012, according to public filings. The loans included two worth $125 million to buy and renovate the Doral golf resort in Florida, a $170 million loan to renovate Washington's Old Post Office into a Trump hotel, and a $69 million loan to refinance an existing Trump hotel in Chicago.

Douglas Letter, the House's general counsel, questioned why the bank continued lending to Trump and his businesses after several of Trump's businesses filed for bankruptcy and other banks stopped lending to him.

The trove of financial documents held by Deutsche Bank could give House Democrats a detailed roadmap for more than a decade of Trump's financial history, including who he did business with and the sources of his wealth.

“We might find out whether Trump has, to the public, overstated his assets and understated his personal benefit from his tax cut,” said Charles Tiefer, a former longtime House lawyer who is now a University of Baltimore law professor.