President Donald Trump and his administration have been plagued by investigations and lawsuits that challenge not only their conduct, such as the Mueller inquiry, but also policy decisions and executive orders. Now, Trump and his businesses are suing House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the committee’s chief investigative counsel Peter Kenny, and accountants Mazars USA in order to block a subpoena to obtain Trump’s financial records.
to engage in “harassment” of the president with “no legitimate legislative purpose.”
“The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump. Subpoenas are their weapon of choice,” reads the first line of the filing. The lawsuit claims that the House Oversight Committee has “ignored the constitutional limits on Congress’ power to investigate.”
It further states that:
“With this subpoena, the Oversight Committee is instead assuming the powers of the Department of Justice, investigating (dubious and partisan) allegations of illegal conduct by private individuals outside of government. The lawsuit claims Congress’ “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 initiated the subpoena in April, stating in a memo that Mazars USA had declined to supply the requested records voluntarily. He justified the committee’s inquiry by stating that new reports indicated irregularities concerning the president’s financial statements, including an MSNBC story that said Trump had overvalued his net worth when applying for bank loans, as well as overestimated the value of several properties.
Cummings’ memo points to claims made by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who in February testified to the committee that, when operating as a businessman, Trump purposely and misleadingly over- or underestimated the value of assets, depending on the purpose of each financial statement. He cited a report by The Washington Post, which says it obtained Trump Organization financial statements from Cohen, showing that Trump fraudulently inflated the value of real estate projects to potential investors.
The Trump legal team, however, claims that Cohen’s accusations are not to be trusted, implying that he coordinated with Democrat lawmakers to provide politically motivated testimony:
“The Cohen hearing was a partisan stunt, not a good-faith effort to obtain accurate testimony from a reliable witness. Cohen is a convicted liar; before his February hearing, he had pleaded guilty to several federal crimes including making false statements to Congress. Cohen’s testimony was orchestrated by his lawyer Lanny Davis, a political operative for the Democrat party, and Cohen met extensively with House Democrats about the contents of his testimony before he gave it.”
At this stage, the accusation that Trump engaged in misleading financial transactions before gaining public office is unverified and will likely remain so if Cummings’ subpoena is successfully blocked. But does this move indicate a change in Democrat strategy, following the release of the Mueller report and the absence of evidence for Russian collusion?
Cummings indicated that he was not convinced of Trump’s innocence and seemed to imply that he would support further investigations into the president’s conduct. “He probably feels emboldened because a lot of our Republican friends … will not lift a finger against him — as a matter of fact, they have acted as defense counsel for him — they now say, ‘Oh, everything’s fine, we’ve got to keep on doing what we’re doing.’ Well, I’m in disagreement with that. We’ve got to go against this. We’ve got to expose it,” Cummings said.
Republicans on the Oversight Committee have countered that position. The Hill reports that, similar to the claims in Trump’s lawsuit, “Reps. Mark Meadows (NC) and Jim Jordan (OH) … have accused their Democratic counterparts of seeking the information ‘solely to embarrass President Trump and to advance the relentless Democrat attacks upon the Trump administration.’”
The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees, chaired by Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) respectively also are looking into Trump’s financial history, apparently in the hopes of finding evidence of campaign finance irregularities, an inappropriate connection to Russia, or any other crime that may lead to the impeachment of the president. The House Ways and Means Committee made a recent request to the IRS, asking for six years of Trump’s tax returns – although the documents were not handed over by the April 10 deadline.
Is this just a political ploy to discredit and impeach the president, or are there valid reasons to investigate Trump’s business ventures based on Cohen’s allegations of financial misconduct?