President Trump and his family, as well as the Trump Organization, filed suit against one of their lenders and one of their banks late Monday, seeking to stop the financial firms from complying with subpoenas from congressional committees.
The lawsuit against Deutsche Bank, which has loaned Trump more than $360 million in recent years, and Capital One are designed to prevent the two institutions from providing records to the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees. The panels are led by Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), respectively.
The filing, submitted late Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claims that the subpoenas were issued to “harass” the president — “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.”
“No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one,” the lawsuit asserts.
In a joint statement, Trump lawyers William S. Consovoy, Patrick Strawbridge and Marc Mukasey called the subpoenas “unlawful and illegitimate.”
“Every citizen should be concerned about this sweeping, lawless, invasion of privacy,” they said. “We look forward to vindicating our clients’ rights in this matter.”
Their clients, in this case, include not just the president but his three eldest children, as well as the business conglomerate that bears their name.
But legal 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.
Schiff and Waters, who issued the subpoenas two weeks ago, condemned the lawsuit in a joint statement, calling it a ploy to “put off meaningful accountability as long as possible."
“The meritless lawsuit filed today by President Trump to block duly authorized subpoenas to nongovernmental entities is another demonstration of the depths to which President Trump will go to obstruct Congress’s constitutional oversight authority,” the Democrats said. “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 added, “This unprecedented stonewalling will not work, and the American people deserve better.”
The lawsuit is the latest salvo by Trump in a deepening battle over congressional inquiries with aims ranging from obtaining the president’s personal and corporate tax returns to bringing Attorney General William P. Barr before the House Judiciary Committee. The White House’s intransigence has led some House Democrats to look with new interest at the possibility of impeachment proceedings.
The 13-page filing offered a window into the legal approach pursued by Trump and his business organization, showing how lawyers for the president will contend that congressional investigators are overreaching their authority.
So, too, it revealed new details about the subpoenas, and about the information being sought by Democrats. According to the suit, the request to Deutsche Bank — the president’s largest creditor — includes account records and other information related to “parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, divisions, partnerships, properties, groups, special purpose entities, joint ventures, predecessors, successors or any other entity in which they have or had a controlling interest.”
The suit claims that lawyers for the president and his associates requested copies of the subpoenas from committee officials, but that Democrats on Capitol Hill refused. They instead learned the details of the requests from the banks, which informed the attorneys that they had intended to begin producing documents on May 6, according to the legal filing.
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.
In a statement, 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.”
Congress is not alone in probing the relationship between Trump and the German lender, which agreed to pay $630 million in fines in 2017 for a scheme that regulators said allowed Russian investors to launder $10 billion through the bank over four years.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) subpoenaed records related to several large loans the bank had extended to Trump in recent years. That request came on the heels of congressional testimony from Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and “fixer,” that Trump had inflated his net worth in material sent to the multinational company, which is headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany.
Capital One is headquartered in McLean, Va., with numerous offices in Manhattan. The bank didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Renae Merle in New York and Robert Costa contributed to this story