President Donald Trump is going to court to try to block a Democratically-controlled congressional committee from obtaining his financial records through a subpoena.
The lawsuit is the first case where Trump has sued to try to stymie House Democrats’ investigations into the President. But the court filing is only the first skirmish in what’s likely to be a multi-front war between House Democrats and Trump, the White House and the President’s businesses.
Trump and the Trump Organization filed suit Monday to stop the House Oversight Committee — chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland — from obtaining financial records from Mazars, an accounting firm that Trump used to prepare financial statements. The committee subpoenaed for 10 years’ worth of Trump’s financial records after the firm requested a so-called “friendly subpoena.”
A separate panel, the House Judiciary Committee, has issued a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and underlying evidence, and chairman Jerry Nadler of New York has said he will go to court to obtain those records.
And House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, who has requested six years’ worth of the President’s personal and business tax returns, is gearing up for a prolonged legal battle for the tax information if the Department of Treasury does not comply by the April 23 deadline.
Following the release of the partially-redacted Mueller report, Democrats have turned up the heat on their investigations into the President’s finances.
In addition to the House Oversight Committee subpoena to Mazars, the House Intelligence and Financial Services panels have subpoenaed nine financial institutions as part of an investigation into Trump’s finances. The President’s personal lawyers have reacted by sending letters to companies and the Treasury Department to argue they should not be handing over the information.
Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten called the subpoena to Mazars “an unprecedented overreach of congressional authority.”
Jennifer Farrington, chief marketing officer, Mazars USA acknowledged they had received the lawsuit but declined to comment on the legal proceeding.
“As a firm we will respect this process and will comply with all legal obligations. As with all clients, we are precluded by our professional code of conduct and corporate policy from commenting further on inquiries of this nature,” she said.
Showdowns for information between the legislative and executive branches rarely go to court, but Democrats have said they may go that route due to administration stonewalling, which could create a new normal in the era of congressional subpoena fights.
In Monday’s court filing, Trump’s lawyers accused House Democrats of being “singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”
“Because Chairman Cummings’ subpoena to Mazars threatens to expose Plaintiffs’ confidential information and lacks ‘a legitimate legislative purpose,’ this Court has the power to declare it invalid and to enjoin its enforcement,” the lawsuit says. “Its goal is to expose Plaintiffs’ private financial information for the sake of exposure, with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President now and in the 2020 election.”
Cummings issued a subpoena to Mazars last week after the accounting firm requested one to comply with the committee’s document request. He also sent a memo to committee members earlier this month, which said he issued the subpoena due to “grave questions about whether the President has been accurate in his financial reporting.”
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen provided the committee with three years’ worth of Trump financial statements, from 2011-2013, which were prepared by Mazars. Cohen accused Trump of inflating his net worth in the financial statements while he was trying to purchase the Buffalo Bills football team.
The House Oversight Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.