The Trump administration’s Justice Department has again taken President Donald Trump’s side in a fight between him — as a private citizen — and the US House of Representatives over subpoenas for his personal financial records.
The Justice Department argues the two banks shouldn’t have to hand over the subpoenaed information and accuses lawmakers of not taking the correct steps to seek the documents.
This is the first time the Justice Department has spoken up in this subpoena fight. Its foray into the case comes as House Democrats’ attempts heat up to get Trump’s financial records and to consider formal impeachment proceedings of the President.
On Friday, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to consider whether two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, will have to turn over Trump’s information to House committees. Judge Jon Newman, a Jimmy Carter appointee, and Judges Debra Ann Livingston and Peter Hall, both appointed by President George W. Bush, will hear the arguments.
In its legal brief Monday, the Justice Department broadly criticizes how the House authorized the subpoenas before taking a full House vote. They also allege that House Democrats are unfairly targeting the President.
“Committees investigating far-reaching public problems, such as money laundering, do not properly exercise that discretion by making the President and his family the sole or primary target of their inquiries, or even one of their targets,” the Justice Department wrote.
The subpoenas, which the House financial services and intelligence committees sent to Deutsche Bank and Capital One this spring, seek years of financial information about Trump, his children and his companies. The committees say they need the information as they investigate banking, money laundering and foreign influence in the US.
Separately, the Justice Department argues that the subpoenas could distract Trump from his job as President if he is “drawn into myriad simultaneous congressional inquiries.”
A federal district judge in Manhattan ruled against Trump at the district level, saying he wouldn’t block Congress’ investigations. Soon after, Trump appealed.
“It is not the role of the Court or plaintiffs to second guess (Congress’) need, especially in light of the court’s conclusions that the requested documents are pertinent to what is likely a lawful congressional investigation,” Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York ruled at the time. Trump, his family and his companies “have not raised any serious questions going to the merits” of the case, Ramos said in court.
The Justice Department’s brief on Monday asks the appeals court to overturn Ramos’ decision.
The department took a similar position in the House’s subpoena of Trump’s financial records from the accounting firm Mazars USA.