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Appeals Court Turns Down Trump's Plea to Block House Subpoena for Financial Records from Banks

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Appeals Court Turns Down Trump's Plea to Block House Subpoena for Financial Records from Banks

2019-12-04 18:17:35

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image: Screenshot)



It was another bad news day for Donald Trump on Tuesday. Not only did the House Intelligence Committee release its impeachment inquiry report and submit it to the House Judicial Committee to decide whether to continue to impeachment, but the president's appeal to block a House subpoena to get his financial records from two banks has failed, meaning it will be yet another that is pushed to the Supreme Court. 

Trump has been secretive about his finances and tax returns since his 2016 campaign, refusing to release anything, despite requests and subpoenas from multiple House committees and New York State. He has not had any victories as of yet with his court fights. His only victories have come with holds on releases pending further court decisions that always go against him.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has decided two House committees can get access to the president's financial records from two banks: Deutsch Bank and Capital One. The two banks were ordered to comply with the subpoenas. Trump was given seven days to again seek a review by the Supreme Court. 

The appeals court said the House committees' "interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive's distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions."


Judge Jon O. Newman, joined by Judge Peter W. Hall, wrote that "the committees have already been delayed in the receipt of the subpoenaed material since April 11 when the subpoenas were issued. They need the remaining time to analyze the material, hold hearings, and draft bills for possible enactment." 

One of Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement issued after the ruling that his client's legal team believes the subpoenas are "invalid as issued" and are reviewing the ruling to determine what they should do next, "including seeking review at the Supreme Court."


Deutsche Bank said in a statement, "We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations." 

More than 10 years of Trump's financial records are being sought, as well as that of Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump, his three oldest children. Records are being sought from his businesses as well from the House Intelligence Committee and Financial Services Committee leaders Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). The committees say they need the records for their investigations into Russian money laundering and potential foreign influence involving Trump.


A district court had issued a decision in May that sided with the House that the banks should obey the subpoenas. Trump's legal team argued that the committees were pushing boundaries of their powers with the intent to embarrass Trump politically and that there was no legislative basis for the requests for every debit card transaction and check that was written by Trump, his children, and his grandchildren. 

The appeals court majority disagreed with this argument and found that the subpoenas serve a "legitimate legislative purpose" while acknowledging the "serious" privacy concerns. The ruling ordered the lower court to give the Trump family time to identify "all sensitive documents" that should be excluded from the document grab.


"We have recognized that this loss of privacy is irreparable," said the court, while adding that it is mitigated by the lower court review process. "The seriousness of the hardship ... should be assessed in light of the fact that [Trump] is already required to expose for public scrutiny a considerable amount" of personal financial information. 

A separate opinion was offered by the third judge on the panel, Debra Ann Livingstone. She found the subpoenas "deeply troubling" because there is no distinction being made between business and personal matters and are demanding information about his entire family. She would not have ordered the documents to be released immediately and instead would have sent the case back to the lower court for a more in-depth review of what was being requested.


She wrote in her opinion that Trump's legal team has "raised serious questions on the merits, implicating not only congress's lawmaking powers but also the ability of this and future presidents to discharge the duties of the Office of the President free of myriad inquiries instigated 'more casually and less responsibly' than contemplated in our constitutional framework." 

This is the third time a federal appeals court has upheld subpoenas for Trump's financial records. Last month it was decided that Congress has the right to seek eight years of the president's tax records. Previously, the appeals court ruled Trump's claims that a subpoena was invalid because Congress had no "legitimate legislative purpose" were wrong.


A separate appeals court unanimously rejected Trump's attempts to block New York grand jury subpoenas for eight years of his tax returns from Mazars USA, his accounting firm. They ruled that "any presidential immunity from a state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such subpoena."  

Trump has asked the Supreme Court to step in in the cases that have been rejected by the appeals court.


Trump's business has taken out about $364 million in loans from Deutsche Bank since 2012, including two loans worth $125 million to buy and renovate the Doral golf resort in Florida, a $170 million loan to renovate Washington's Old Post Office into a Trump hotel and a $69 million loan to refinance a Trump hotel in Chicago. 

The House's general counsel, Douglas Letter, questioned in August why Deutsche Bank continued loaning Trump and his businesses money after several of the businesses filed for bankruptcy and other banks had already stopped lending to him. The answer to this could be revealed in his financial records.

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