(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump sued to block Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. from complying with congressional subpoenas targeting his bank records, escalating the president’s showdown with Democratic lawmakers investigating his finances.
The German lender has already begun the process of giving documents related to loans made to Trump or some of his businesses to the New York state attorney general, who is conducting her own probe, said a person familiar with the matter. The bank hasn’t yet handed over any client-related records to the House committees and will wait for the outcome of the legal proceedings, said the person, asking not to be identified in disclosing internal information.
Two House Democratic committee leaders slammed the lawsuit as “meritless” and said it was a bid to “obstruct Congress’s constitutional oversight authority.”
“This lawsuit is not designed to succeed; it is only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible,” Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Tuesday. “Trump has already said publicly that he is fighting all of the subpoenas from Congress, and that he does not respect Congress’ role as a coequal branch of government. This unprecedented stonewalling will not work, and the American people deserve better.”
Trump’s lawyers wrote in the introduction to the 13-page complaint filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, “The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the President and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage.”
Joining Trump as plaintiffs were his eldest children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump, as well as the Trump Organization, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and other entities affiliated with the president’s family.
House Democrats have refused to share copies of the subpoenas with Trump, preventing him from negotiating the scope of the information requests, the president’s lawyers said in the lawsuit. Deutsche Bank and Capital One have provided Trump and his children descriptions of the subpoenas, which the president’s lawyers contend are overly broad.
“They seek not only the plaintiffs’ documents, but also the financial records of parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, divisions, partnerships, properties, groups, special purpose entities, joint ventures, predecessors and successors,” according to the suit. “As if that were not broad enough, the subpoenas extend further to documents concerning each of the entities’ current or former employees, officers, directors, shareholders, partners, members, consultants, managers, senior associates, staff employees, independent contractors, agents, attorneys, or other representatives.”
The subpoenas seek documents from 2010 through the present. Deutsche Bank informed Trump’s lawyers that had the president not sued, it would have started submitting records to the congressional committees on May 6.
“This is consistent,” Waters told reporters Tuesday. “This president will do everything he can to obstruct justice. He will do everything he can to shut down an investigation.”
House Democrats’ probes into Trump’s finances and potential money laundering tied to Russia have prompted them to demand documents from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and seven other banking giants, according to people familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank has been a particular target because it has lent some $340 million to Trump.
Schiff said Tuesday that obtaining records from the German bank is “essential” for lawmakers to determine whether Russia or any other foreign power has leverage over Trump.
“The reason that we are concerned about financial issues is this investigation began as a counter intelligence investigation,” said Schiff, speaking at an event sponsored by the Washington Post. “One of ways Russia exercises its influence is financially.”
Schiff reiterated that Deutsche Bank intends to cooperate with Democrats’ investigation, but needed what’s known as a friendly subpoena because of concerns that Trump would indeed sue to block the bank from turning over documents. Such subpoenas are typically submitted when firms are willing to provide information.
Deutsche Bank remains committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such probes, a spokesman for the lender said in a Tuesday statement. A Capital One spokesman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Deutsche Bank had been Trump’s go-to lender for decades, even as other commercial banks stopped doing business with him because of multiple bankruptcies. Although the German lender’s investment bank had severed ties with Trump during the 2008 financial crisis, after he defaulted on a loan and then sued the bank, its wealth management unit continued to extend him credit.
The firm has stopped doing new business with Trump while he is president, a person briefed on the matter said previously.
The complaint is very similar to one Trump filed last week in Washington to block Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, from getting records held by Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA LLP.
The new case is Trump v. Deutsche Bank, 19-cv-03826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Adds comments from Waters and Schiff starting in 10th paragraph.)
—With assistance from Billy House, Erik Wasson and Jenny Surane.
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