President Trump has stepped up his effort to prevent Congress and the public from seeing inside details of his business practices by filing a federal lawsuit against two major banks.
The suit, filed Monday in Manhattan, is aimed at blocking Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Virginia-based Capital One from responding to subpoenas issued by House committees.
The president’s three eldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — are also named in the suit.
“The suit appears to be part of an increasingly aggressive counteroffensive by Mr. Trump’s administration and his business empire to thwart attempts by House Democrats to investigate him and his presidency,” reports the New York Times.
Legal analysts say it’s doubful the suit can do anything but delay House investigations, but lawmakers say that may be the point.
Two House committees — Intelligence and Financial Services — have issued suboenas to Deutsche Bank, which has a history of lending large sums to Trump’s company. The Times quotes sources “with knowledge of the investigation” as saying it relates to “possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”
The Trump suit contends that the subpoenas “have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” but are intended to “rummage through every aspect of his personal finances … for any material that might be used to cause him political damage.”
The lawyers representing Trump warned that all Americans should be concerned about the “sweeping, lawless invasion of privacy” the subpoenas supposedly represent.
Key House Democrats shrugged off the president’s action. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, and Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement calling the suit “meritless.”
The statement notes that in business dealings, Trump commonly used lawsuits and threats of them to intimidate others, but that won’t work with Congress.
In fact, it says, “This lawsuit is not designed to succeed; it is only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible.”
A a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank said: “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations.” There’s been no comment so far from Capital One.
The Washington Post says legal experts predict the courts will be “unwilling to stand in the way of congressional oversight.”
“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.”