US judge refuses to block Trump bank subpoenas

Federal judge refuses to block congressional subpoenas seeking documents from two banks that did business with Trump.

    US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban [File: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP]
    US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban [File: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP]

    US President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization on Wednesday lost their bid to block Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp from providing financial records to Democratic politicians investigating Trump's businesses.

    US District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled at a court hearing in New York that Congress has the legal authority to demand the records, clearing the way for the banks to comply with subpoenas issued to them by two US House of Representatives committees last month.

    It was the second time this week that a judge had ruled against the Republican president in his fight with Democrats. Trump's lawyers were expected to appeal both decisions.

    President Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has aggressively sought to defy congressional oversight of his administration since Democrats took control of the US House of Representatives in January.

    Trump said last month that the administration was "fighting all the subpoenas" issued by the House, hardening his position after the release of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on how Russia interfered in the 2016 US election to help Trump and the president's attempts to impede the investigation.

    Some parts of the subpoenas have been included in court filings.

    The subpoena on Deutsche Bank seeks extensive records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his three oldest children, their immediate family members and several Trump Organization entities, as well as records of ties they might have to foreign entities. 

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    Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump's real estate business and a 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

    The Capital One subpoena seeks records related to multiple entities tied to the Trump Organization's hotel business. In March, before issuing their subpoena, Democratic politicians asked Capital One for documents concerning potential conflicts of interest tied to Trump's Washington hotel and other business interests since he became president in January 2017.

    Trump, his adult children, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka, and the Trump Organization had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Deutsche Bank complying with subpoenas from the House Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, and Capital One from complying with a subpoena from the Financial Services Committee.

    Lawsuit

    In a lawsuit filed on April 29, lawyers for Trump, his children and the Trump Organization argued that the subpoenas were too broad, and that Democrats are hoping they will "stumble upon something" that could be used for political attacks on the president.

    "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," the complaint said. 

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    The judge said on Wednesday that the committees had the power to issue the subpoenas under Congress's "broad" power to conduct investigations to further legislation. He also rejected Trump's argument that they were barred by a federal financial privacy laws, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, saying the law does not apply to congressional investigations.

    The banks are the only defendants in the case, but the House committees intervened to oppose Trump's effort to block the subpoenas.

    "We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations," Deutsche Bank said in a statement before the hearing.

    Capital One declined comment before the hearing.

    Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told reporters after the lawsuit was filed that Trump had "cast a gauntlet". "We will fight him," she said. 

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    On Monday, a federal judge in Washington ruled against the president in a similar case, finding that Trump's accounting firm, Mazars LLP, must comply with a congressional subpoena for Trump's financial records.

    US District Judge Amit Mehta found that Congress was "not engaged in a fishing expedition" for the president's financial records when it subpoenaed Mazars and said that documents obtained might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.

    Trump called Mehta's decision "crazy" and "totally the wrong decision by obviously an Obama-appointed judge," referring to Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. US District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who was also appointed by Obama, is overseeing the New York case.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency