President Trump attempts to block House Democrats from obtaining his financial records with lawsuit

Rep. Cummings issued a subpoena to probe accusations made by Michael Cohen that Trump misrepresented his net worth

Published April 22, 2019 1:35PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
(Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

President Donald Trump on Monday sued Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in an attempt to block the congressional panel from obtaining years of his financial records from several business entities through a subpoena.

The lawsuit, filed by Trump and the Trump Organization in the U.S. District Court of Columbia, asks the federal court to prevent Cummings from obtaining the documents from Mazars USA, an accounting firm used by the president and his entities to prepare financial statements. Trump's legal team said the subpoena for records from Mazars "lacks any legitimate legislative purpose, is an abuse of power and is just another example of overreach by the president's political opponents."

In the court filing, Trump's legal team accused House Democrats of abusing their subpoena power.

"Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses and even his family," the lawsuit reads. "Instead of working with the president to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the president politically."

Cummings issued a subpoena to Mazars last week. He is attempting to obtain ten years of Trump's financial records in order to corroborate allegations made by Michael Cohen, the attorney who spent many years as Trump's personal "fixer," that the president misrepresented his net worth while he was a private citizen. Cohen testified to Congress in February that Trump at times inflated his asserts to earn a spot on the Forbes list of wealthiest people but deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.

Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's lawyers, said in a statement, "We will not allow congressional presidential harassment to go unanswered."

In late March, Cummings sent a letter to Mazars chairman and CEO Victor Wahba requesting documents related to his committee's investigation into claims that Trump inflated or deflated financial statements for his personal benefit. Cummings said Cohen provided documents to his committee in support of his testimony.

"Mr. Cohen produced to the committee financial statements from 2011, 2012 and 2013 that raise questions about the president’s representations of his financial affairs on these forms and on other disclosures, particularly relating to the president's debts," Cummings wrote in the letter. "Several of these documents appear to have been signed by your firm."

Cummings asked that Mazars produce the documents to the committee by April 3 – a deadline the accounting firm did not meet – prompting him to issue the subpoena.

After Cummings issued the subpoena, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the panel, sent a letter to him and a memo to committee members calling the subpoena an "unprecedented abuse" of the panel's subpoena authority.

"I urge you to seriously reconsider your intention to issue this subpoena. Your obsession with attacking the president and his family for political gain does nothing to improve the efficiency, economy and operations of the federal government," Jordan wrote in his letter.

The lawsuit comes as Democrats ramp up their investigations of Trump, issuing subpoenas for information about White House security clearances and the 2020 census and for an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report detailing his nearly two-year investigation into allegations of collusion between the president's campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election and whether the president himself attempted to instruct the probe. A redacted version of Mueller's report was released last Thursday.

By Shira Tarlo

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